Where should you move if you want to qualify for the Olympics, but aren’t good enough?




Earlier, I discussed what country gives you the best shot at qualifying for the Olympics. I suggested originating from a small country with a limited population. Based solely on number of Rio athletes per capita, the Cook Islands seem like a very good choice.

There is a problem with this plan, however. What if you were already born in a country with a large population of good athletes, and therefore will not qualify for the Olympic team of your home country.If you have some sort of dual citizenship, you might get two chances at this. Violinist Vanessa-Mae did something along these lines to compete in Alpine Skiing for Thailand. Vanessa-Mae, was born in Singapore and grew up in the UK, but her Father was from Thailand, so she could get a Thai Passport. She barely met the minimum standards to qualify for skiing, and since Thailand is not known for its skiing she had minimal competition.

If you fail to get on the Olympic team of the nation(s) of your citizenship, are you out of luck? Or can you gain citizenship somewhere else and try to get on their team. Where should you move, and how would do you it?

Even the weakest Olympic competitors are very good at whatever sport they do. So this will work best if you are an elite athlete who just fails to qualify for the Olympic Team. To be a member of an Olympic team you need to be a citizen of that country. So what we are looking for is a small country-so you don’t have too much competition, that also makes it easy for outsiders to become citizens. Fortunately, these are categories with some overlap.


To become a citizen, you have a few options:

  • Being born there (Going to skip this one)
  • Marry a foreign national. (Going to skip this one as well)
  • Citizenship through Ancestry. (You might have more options than you think, some countries (ex: Ireland) will let you become a citizen if you have a grandparent who was born there.
  • Citizenship through residency. If you live somewhere long enough usually you can get citizenship. Unfortunately, this is usually a long process.
  • Sometimes you can buy your way in, but citizenship ain’t cheap.
  • Some other special circumstances. Some countries (Ex: Singapore, Austria) allow the president or other government body to grant citizenship to anyone they deem worthy, regardless of other requirements. Of course, if you were a good enough athlete to get this kind of treatment, you probably could have qualified for your own country.)


If you can’t marry, ancestor, or somehow get yourself granted citizenship you are left with two bad options: Investment, or Residency. Fortunately, some countries are not nearly so painful as others, a selection of the best options are presented below.




Population: 6.7 Million

Number of Olympians at Rio: 11

Olympians per million people: 1.6


If you have your sights set on Tokyo 2020, but won’t qualify for the US team, and don’t have a small fortunate to spend on foreign citizenship. Paraguay might be your best option. Simply fly there, apply for residency (includes depositing $5000 in a bank account) live there for a few years. Apply for citizenship. Go to the Olympics. Easy.



Population 3.4 Million

Number of Olympians at Rio: 17

Olympians per million people: 4.9


To get Uruguayan citizenship before the Tokyo games you are going to have to involve your family. The minimum time an individual needs to spend as a resident before being eligible for citizenship is five years, but this is shortened for three years for families.



St Kitts and Nevis

Population: 56,000

Number of Olympians at Rio: 7.

Number of Olympians per million people: 124


You can get a St Kitts and Nevis passport without ever going there. Just give them a $250,000 donation or make an approved $400,000 real-estate investment. Plus some other fees and stuff. St Kitts and Nevis also has a tiny population so you are unlikely to face much competition in your Olympic bid. They do have a fairly strong Track and Field team (all of the Saint Kitts and Nevis Olympians have been runners) so you might want to try for other sports.


Population: 73,000

Number of Olympians at Rio 2.

Number of Olympians per million people: 27


You can get citizenship to Dominca for a mere $100,000 donation, which makes it the cheapest legal citizenship currently available. You can also get it with the right sort of $200,000 real estate investment. The process will take a few months, but it doesn’t look like you have to spend any of that in Dominica.


Antigua and Barbuda

Population: 92,000

Number of Olympians at Rio: 9

Number of Olympians per Million people: 97.


While not as cheap as Dominica, it does offer citizenship from 250,000 donation/400,000 real estate.  It also has high rates of Olympians per Capita, much like St Kitts and Nevis.


If you have the money, all three of these citizenship by investment schemes seem like a good way to remove some of the competition from your Olympic bid. Uruguay and Paraguay, seem like possible options as well. As they are much larger countries you may have a considerably harder time making the local Olympic team.This might matter less if you are planning to compete in the Winter Olympics as both Uruguay and Paraguay have each only ever sent one athlete to the winter Olympics.


Would this actually work?

Consider the 2012 Winter Olympic team for the nation of Dominica. This team consisted of Angelica di Silvestri and Gary di Silvestri, a middle aged husband and wife pair, of cross country skiers who did not manage to finish, or in Angelica’s case start, the 15km event they had entered. The couple claimed they were given the Dominica citizenship due to their philanthropy, but it seems much more likely they simply bought it.


Sources, References, and Further Reading:






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