While the practice of nationality swapping in sports traces back as far as the Ancient Olympics, it seems to have increased over the past decades. Cases of Olympic athletes who switched their national allegiances are often surrounded with controversy. Two strands of thought could help explain this controversy. First, these cases are believed to be indicative of the marketisation of citizenship. Second, these cases challenge established discourses of national identity as the question ‘who may represent the nation?’ becomes contested. Using state-of-the-art machine learning techniques, I analysed 1534 English language newspaper articles about Olympic athletes who changed their nationalities (1978–2017). The results indicate: (i) that switching national allegiance has not necessarily become more controversial; (ii) that most media reports do not frame nationality switching in economic terms; and (iii) that nationality swapping often occurs fairly unnoticed. I therefore conclude that a marketisation of citizenship is less apparent in nationality switching than some claim. Moreover, nationality switches are often mentioned rather casually, indicating the generally banal character of nationalism. Only under certain conditions does ‘hot’ nationalism spark the issue of nationhood.

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doi.org/10.1177/1012690218773969, hdl.handle.net/1765/106393
International Review for the Sociology of Sport
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Jansen, J. (2018). Nationality swapping in the Olympic Games 1978–2017: A supervised machine learning approach to analysing discourses of citizenship and nationhood. International Review for the Sociology of Sport. doi:10.1177/1012690218773969