Perhaps you were watching the Olympic ‘Parade of Nations’ when three of the four “Independent Olympic Athletes” entered the arena. They are:
- Liemarvin Bonevacia formerly of Netherlands Antilles competing in the Men’s 400 Meter run
- Reginald de Windt formerly of Netherlands Antilles competing in the Men’s 81-kg Judo
- Philipine van Aanholt formerly of Netherlands Antilles competing in sailing’s Laser Radial competition
- Guor Marial (also) of South Sudan competing in the Men’s marathon (not pictured above)
You see, in 2010, the Netherlands Antilles dissolved. It used to be an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands that included the two Leeward Antilles island groups in the Caribbean: the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao near Venezuela and the SSS islands of Saint Maarten, Saba, and Saint Eustatius near the Virgin Islands. Bonevacia, de Windt, and van Aanholt are all from Curaçao and since that country is not currently recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), they were given permission to compete as independents.
Additionally, in 2011, South Sudan became independent from Sudan. Marial was born in what is now South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, but was then Sudan. He became a refugee of the Sudanese conflict in 1993 when he was only nine years old, as he fled across border after border fleeing the violence. Marial was granted asylum in the U.S. in 2001, and is a permanent resident here. He was given permission to compete for Sudan but he responded: “Never! For me to even consider that is a betrayal. My family lost 28 members in the war with Sudan. Millions of my people were killed by Sudan forces. I can only forgive, but I cannot honor and glorify a country that killed my people.”
Join me in wishing these 4 superb athletes luck as they compete in the London 2012 Summer Olympics!