Amidst the camera-flashing pomp and cliché costumed circumstance in the Parade of Nations, the group without a country was the highlight. Instead of marching and snapping pictures, three Independent Olympic Athletes danced, whooped and grinned to the audiences, their infectious joy winning them hearts worldwide.
The entrance is trending all over social media, with many cheering on the group’s antics. Seeing as how much of the rest of the opening ceremony wasn’t taking itself too seriously, the Independent Olympic Athletes fit right into the light-hearted partycentric atmosphere.
The trio of nationless Olympians are all from Netherlands Antilles, a collection of Caribbean islands that were dissolved in 2010. The former country was known for its proficiency in sprinting, mainly because their athlete came in second to Usain Bolt in the Beijing 200m final, but was disqualified for stepping on the boundary of his lane.
Each athlete will compete in different events – Liemarvin Bonevacia for the 400m, Philipine van Aanholt for Women’s Laser Radial (Sailing), and Reginald De Windt for Judo.
The fourth absent member of the Independent Olympic Athletes is Guor Marial, a Marathon runner from the newly formed Southern Sudan. In 1992, he took refuge in the United States from the Sudanese Civil War. In an interview with Huffington Post, Guor said
“Some things are more important than Olympic glory. If I ran for Sudan, I would be betraying my people. I would be dishonoring the two million people who died for our freedom. I want to bring honor to my country. People who just want glory, the spotlight of the Olympics, they don’t care about other people. I’m fighting for independent status because I do care. When I run, I want people to see me and say, “He is from South Sudan.””
Hopefully Guor and the rest of the independent Olympians score some medals. But even if they don’t, their memorable entrance and what they stood for will be remembered long after the games are finished.
What did you think of the Independents? Out of place or highlight of the parade? Tell us down below.