Banderas de las nacoines que participan en Tokio 2020. Foto: Getty Images
Flags of nations participating in Tokyo 2020: Getty Images

Why are there more delegations at the Olympic Games than countries?

The UN recognizes 194 countries, but there are more than 200 delegations at Olympics.


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The Olympic Games are the space to bring together athletes from all over the planet in one place. This year, the 11,656 athletes participating in Tokyo 2020 represent 206 delegations, but these are more than recognized countries in the world.

The 194 sovereign countries recognized by the UN have National Olympic Committees, and nations like Puerto Rico also have their own representatives in Tokyo, even though it is an unincorporated U.S. territory. The same goes for Bermuda, which belongs to the U.K. and some other small islands in the Pacific.

The difference between Committees and nations dates back before 1996, when the IOC allowed countries that were dependent territories of others to participate in the Olympic Games. But as of 1996, new National Olympic Committees (NOCs) can no longer be formed, although those already been created can participate.

This year, two countries did not send their representatives due to the COVID-19 emergency: North Korea and the Republic of Guinea.

Russia also cannot participate with its own flag due to the doping scandal that carried their suspension from international tournaments for two years. However, 335 Russian athletes were able to demonstrate that they had no role in the doping plot are participating under the neutral flag of the Russian Olympic Comittee (ROC).

This year, the Olympic Refugee Athletes Team is also competing. Their first appearance was at the Rio 2016 Games and consisted of 10 athletes from Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This year, 29 athletes participating in 12 competitions.

Olympic Games facts and figures

Team USA is the largest delegation in Tokyo 2020, with 657 athletes, even surpassing the host Japan, which brought 615 athletes.

The smallest delegations are Andorra, Bermuda, Brunei, the Central African Republic, Dominica, Lesotho, the Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Nauru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Somalia, South Sudan and Tuvalu, with only two athletes apiece.

2,176 athletes from 200 countries will seek to win a medal in the 47 track and field events, the competition with the most competitors.

Countries like Bolivia, Cambodia, Honduras, Nepal and Yemen, are part of the list of 72 nations that have never won an Olympic medal.

The Tokyo Olympics are also the first to achieve near-gender equality among its participants, as 49% of this year's competitors are women.

At least 174 athletes openly identify as LGBTQ+ at Tokyo 2020, the highest number in the entire history of the Olympic Games


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