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June 15, 2008

Richard Florida

Olympic Edge

« Tyler Brule on the World's Best Cities | Main | Putting the Buff in Tor-Buff-Chester »

Olympic_talent It's increasingly recognized that immigrants power Silicon Valley innovation and entrepreneurship and top the ranks of US science, but according to this report in the New York Times foreign-born athletes are a critical component of America's Olympic edge as well.

Marching into Beijing Stadium under the American flag this August will be a kayaker from Poland, table tennis players from China, a triathlete from New Zealand, a world-champion distance runner from Kenya and a gold-medal-winning equestrian from Australia.

All newly minted United States citizens. Foreign-born and trained stars have been contributing to the United States’s Olympic medal count since 2000 in a modest but growing trend that blurs the national boundaries of the competition ...

The United States is a magnet for attracting accomplished veteran athletes to switch citizenship, according to analysis by The New York Times. Since 1992, about 50 athletes who had competed in international events for their home countries — including 10 for China — became United States citizens and Olympians, winning eight medals, records show. This practice has implications for American athletes who are shut out of precious Olympic berths and has also been cause for conflict among competing nations.

Nine new citizens are on track to secure spots on the 600-athlete United States team for Beijing, including the distance runner Bernard Lagat, who won two medals for Kenya in the 2004 Athens Games ...

Seven Olympic medals since 2000 have been won by five new citizens who had been elite performers for their home countries: the gymnast Annia Hatch from Cuba and the synchronized swimmer Anna A. Kozlova from Russia each won two in 2004; the sailor Magnus Liljedahl from Sweden and the tennis player Monica Seles from Yugoslavia in 2000 in Sydney, Australia; and the ice dancer Tanith Belbin from Canada in the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.

Graphic from the NY Times.


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Athletes get fast tracked to US citizenship because of a clause in the citizenship legislation for "people with extraordinary abilities." (or some phrase like that.) Somewhat of a shame that the US restricts people with other talents these days.

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