Nationality Swapping in World Athletics: Cases and Contexts from the Middle East (1998– 2016)

Gijsbert Oonk, Jorn Schulting

Research output: Chapter/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic

9 Downloads (Pure)


Nationality swapping in global sports challenges the common conceptions of citizenship, belonging and national identity. Athletes who represent a country in which they are not born are increasingly scrutinised and highly debated among academics, sport legislators, sports federations and in the (international) media. The practice has become so prevalent that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) felt obliged to reinforce and tighten its regulations regarding nationality changes. Their efforts were explicitly targeted towards countries in the Middle East. However, our data show that only 13.8% (N=695) of the cases were related to the Middle East. Relatively large numbers of male and female athletes who obtain passports in Middle Eastern countries come from Africa (especially Kenya). The combination of ‘rich oil countries’ and ‘vulnerable African athletes’ may well have triggered the concerns of the IAAF. In fact, this was the reason why the IAAF started to register and regulate passport swaps. Nevertheless, World Athletics officials did not highlight the existing nature of college (sport) scholarships in Canada and the USA. Therefore, this chapter argues that the practices of Middle Eastern countries in allowing passport swaps should be seen as a challenge to western notions of citizenship and national identity.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge Handbook of Sport in the Middle East
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherTaylor and Francis AS
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781000567922
ISBN (Print)9780367470227
Publication statusPublished - 28 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 selection and editorial matter, Danyel Reiche and Paul Michael Brannagan; individual chapters, the contributors.

Research programs



Dive into the research topics of 'Nationality Swapping in World Athletics: Cases and Contexts from the Middle East (1998– 2016)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this