what does it take to qualify for olympics?

To qualify as your country’s representative at the Olympics, is it sufficient to simply be the best in your country at a given event? Or do you also have to meet some objective minimum standard?

At the olympic open ceremony, they showed lots of countries with only a handful of athletes. The Solomon Islands, for instance, has a population of about half a million and they sent six athletes. Only six?!? But there’s hundreds of olympic events! Assume you’re the best pole vaulter in the Solomon Islands, because you’re the only pole vaulter in the Solomon Islands. Does that mean you’d automatically be entitled to go to London and enter the first round of the olympics representing your country?
I assume you’d have to pay the travel costs yourself, but assuming you have the money, could you go to the olympics simply by default if no one else in your country wanted to enter that event? If so, then how come more countries don’t enter a full slate of amateur “athletes” who enter just for the experience of seeing the olympics?

I watched the US Olympic track and field trials a few weeks ago, and they made frequent reference to the Olympic qualifying standards, so it was not enough to beat the other contestants. I assume it’s the same in other sports where athletes compete against the tape or clock.

I don’t know how it would work in team sports, where it’s just a matter of getting more points than the other team. I might have thought that your team has to prove itself in the previous world championships or something, but the current US basketball team didn’t do that. I also don’t know who decides which players are on the team – AFAIK, some committee just picked them.

It depends on the country and the selection process for each sport.

Some will use a committee approach, looking at the competitive records and choosing that way. Others, such as the US, have Trials competitions, best that day go.

There are also minimum performance/qualification levels set by the IOC.

However, countries are allowed “subpar” performers if they are the only entrants for that sport. Eddie The Eagle

Each sport has its own rules but you generally have to qualify beforehand.

Quite simply you compete and the winners advance.

Bear in mind that the competition process goes on for years and is no doubt grueling.

Just as an example, the standards for wrestling include the country (not necessarily the athlete) placing at a certain level at tournaments that are designated as Olympic qualifying tournaments at each weight class. Then each country determines its entrants at each qualified class.

The US runs a ladder tournament. The Russians select their team. It’s very possible (happens regularly) that the wrestler who wins a qualifying tournament at a particular weight won’t be the one to represent the US at the Olympics.

Moved to the Game Room.

General Questions Moderator

A commentator mentioned (when the Buthan team appeared) that the IOC makes exceptions to its qualification rules so that small countries can send at least some athletes.

After Eddie the Eagle and the Jamaican bobsled team they tightened up the qualifying rules to eliminate most sub-par entrants. They still allow very small countries some exceptions, but neither of those teams would make it into the Olympics again.


I heard one gymnast quoted as saying the qualifying trials were more stressful for her than the actual games - if you fail at the Olympics, at least you got to go to the Olympics, if you messed up in the trials you got nothing.

For track and field, every country is allowed to enter one man and one woman regardless of any qualifying marks. Note that they cannot enter some of the events, such as the marathon, without a qualifying time.

If the country wants to enter more than one individual, all of the individuals must meet the B standard for their event. Qualifying standards are here. Note that the individuals must be in different events.

If the country wants to enter more than one individual in a single event, such as the 400 meters, all of the individuals must meet the A standard for that event. Countries cannot enter more than three in a given event.

I can’t find a good summary of how it works, but there are wild cards awarded to some of the smaller countries to enable them to send some participants. Here’s one story from 2000- some googling indicates that there are wild card competitorsthisyearas well.

In my case, it’s a performance level.
I tried out for the U.S. bobsled team in 1996. One test was moving a training sled from a dead stop to a finish line, say 50 feet away in under X time. Had I been successful, I would have gotten to train in Lake Placid, and compete for a spot on the team, based again on individual performance.

.024/sec is the closest I got. 4 times I tried, and each time I went over the limit by .024/sec. I believe with training - I had done zero before the tryout - I would have made the team that went to Nagano.

The U.S. team did not medal that year because of this! :smiley:

To put those qualifying standards in perspective - The B standard time for the mens 1500 metres (3:38) is faster than all gold medalists up until 1984. And the world record only dropped below 3:38 in 1958.

The other standards aren’t quite as spectacular but would still have been competitive well into the 70s.

So (roughly speaking) if you want to make the Olympics in track and field you have to post a time that would have probably got you gold a generation ago and would have been a world record two generations ago.

The Jamaican bobsled team has qualified several times since they tightened the rules. They finished in the top half of the competition in Lillehammer.

What does the Jamaican bobsled team have to do with any of this?