Get to know our Olympic guests

You know the Americans, but what about the athletes from Bhutan, Burundi, Naura and Kazakhstan, coming to London for the Games?

Known for having one of the lowest-ranking national football sides in the world – but then it’s not really Bhutan’s game. The national sport is archery, and it has sent competitors to the past seven Olympic games. This year it’s just got the one, Sherab Zam, who will compete in the women’s individual event. 


Saudi Arabia
The Saudi team is set to branch out this year by including a new type of athlete: women. Although gender discrimination violates the Olympic charter, Saudi Arabia has, until now, fielded men-only teams. But, in breaking news, Sarah Attar will compete in the 800m and Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani in the judo competition. 

One of the world’s poorest countries, this African nation nevertheless has something Saudi Arabia has never had: an Olympic gold medal. Middle-distance runner Vénuste Niyongabo won the 5,000 metres in Atlanta in 1996. It’s been downhill ever since, but there’s always hope. 

This 21-square-kilometre island is the world’s smallest republic and, with 9,378 inhabitants, it’s the least populous country apart from Vatican City. Like its island neighbours Kiribati and Tuvalu, Nauru is very keen on weightlifting. 

Puerto Rico
Although technically part of the United States, Puerto Rico competes independently, to the extent that it sent athletes to Moscow in 1980, when America boycotted the Games. It’s won a total of six medals (one silver, the rest bronze) over the years, all in boxing. 

The Kazakhstan squad will compete in events including gymnastics and wrestling. They managed two gold medals in Beijing, in weightlifting and boxing. If they succeed again, let’s hope the correct national anthem is cued up: when Mariya Dmitriyenko of the Kazakh shooting team won a gold at an event in Kuwait in March, the organisers played the spoof anthem from the film Borat.


It stands for Independent Olympic Participants, athletes who can’t compete for their nation and are allowed to participate under the Olympic flag. This year there are two, both from the Dutch Antilles.