Distance runners from BAHRAIN?

The silver medalist in the women’s marathon is competing for Bahrain, and I just heard on BBC News (which airs on my local PBS station) that another Bahrainian got a medal in the women’s steeplechase.

They all have Kenyan or Ethiopian names, and a little Google-fu revealed that some athletes from those countries are adopting other citizenships to increase their chances of competing in international competitions (like, for instance, the Olympics).

I know it’s not uncommon for people of dual citizenship to compete under the country with the least competition, just so they can say they were in the Olympics. Classical violinist Vanessa-Mae, who has dual Canadian and Thai citizenship, competed in the 2012 Winter Olympics as a skier for Thailand, and was their only athlete. :dubious: There’s also a local athlete who has U.S./Jamaican citizenship, and she is in a sport that has little Jamaican participation, so she has been competing there for Jamaica, and actually did quite well.

But why, of all places, Bahrain? There has to be someone here who would know.

to paraphrase Mrs. Merton

“what was it about oil rich Bahrain that first tempted you to run for them?”

“My love of the country, it’s beauty, it’s people, it’s culture. They all moved me.”
“To a bigger house.”

I can understand what’s in it for the athlete. But what’s in it for the country. How do you derive any kind of national pride from the achievement of opportunists?

It’s advertising.

Spitballing here:

Legitimacy? Maybe people won’t notice or recognize the last name as non-Bahraini (or Qatari- their handball team is mostly mercenaries as well)?

A way to skirt IOC regs? The IOC bans countries that don’t allow women to compete- maybe this is a better dodge than sending some race-walker out there to get smoked?

An attempt to jump-start an Olympic program/system? I and some of my friends have on occasion been handsomely rewarded for competing under different rowing clubs’ banners in the hopes that our presence in the facility and at regattas wearing those colors would light a fire under members who had potential, attract other quality rowers, and teach administrators how to run a competitive program. Sometimes it worked.

A little “look what we can do?” What’s the point of having money if you can’t spend it on flashy stuff, like an indoor ski jump or an Olympic silver medalist?

Regardless of where they come from, the athletes on your olympic team are on your team. Its not any different than professional sports. Most players on the Yankee’s roster weren’t born in New York, but they still represent New York.

Well, I have to admit I am a little bit more interested in Canadians who are actually Canadian than ones who choose the team for reasons of convenience.

No they don’t. They represent a professional baseball team based in New York.

Which a lot of their fans feels represent their city. There is a reason why professional teams can extort so many money from the cities they play in - the people feel that the team is part of the city’s identity.

Which is in no way analogous to athletes representing their countries in a global competition.