One factoid that is often repeated during coverage of the Sydney Olympics is that at least one of the colours of the five rings of the Olympic flag can be found in the flag of every nation (the colours are blue, yellow, black, green and red).

This is the sort of challenge that World Link can’t resist. It sounds plausible, but largely untested. A quick survey of the office this morning rapidly produced a refutation: take a look at the flag of Qatar. Unless the International Olympic Committee wants to stretch a point (something that is entirely possible), white and maroon are not in the Olympic rings. There may well be other flags that defy this common wisdom.

Qatari flag: Flag of Qatar

Coincidentally, Qatar is one of the nations that seems to be taking advantage of a very lax nationality requirement in Olympic weightlifting. According to the BBC, the four Qatari weightlifters were purchased from Bulgaria for a rumoured $1 million. Even host Australia is party to this nonsense: its squad includes a few stars lifted from a needy Armenia.

There is a great Olympic precedent for this bizarre migrant labour market. The greatest ever weightlifter, Naim Suleymanoglu, the “Pocket Hercules”, transferred from then-communist Bulgaria (his name was Sulmanov) to Turkey just in time to win gold in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Sadly, Suleymanoglu failed to win his fourth consecutive gold in this Olympics. But the precedent of his nationality shopping lives on.

Not to go on about it, but…
What is it about weightlifting? No sooner is the nationality game uncovered than perhaps the most sordid moment of the Olympics mars this odd sport. Romania’s weightlifters have been reinstated for the Games by paying a fine for their doping offenses. Some of us may recall that the athletes’ oath, recited at the opening ceremony, promised a drugs-free Games. It was also a Kazakh weightlifting official that Australians tried to prevent from entering the country because of an alleged criminal record.

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