One of the goals of the Olympic Games is to foster camaraderie and friendly competition between countries, but it goes without saying that some countries win more medals than others. Here is a list of five underdogs you should lend your support to in the London 2012 Olympics.
1. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia made headlines when it finally allowed female athletes to represent the country at this year's Olympics. Sarah Attar and Wojdan Shaherkani are competing in the 800-meters race and the judo competition respectively. It is a victory for Saudi Arabia to send female competitors, considering that the government does not allow women to drive.
The London 2012 Games is also the first time that Qatar and Brunei are sending women athletes.
Like Greece, Spain is facing tough economic times. Spain was highly anticipated to do well in men’s football, but the team lost to Honduras and Japan in the first round. The men’s team is expected to play Morocco on August 1.
3. Independent Olympic Athletes
You may have spotted a small, yet excited group of participants at the parade of nations. All three representing Independent Olympic Athletes in the parade are from the recently dissolved Netherlands Antilles, a collection of islands in the Caribbean. At the Beijing Olympics, a Netherlands Antilles athlete came in second after the celebrated Jamaican sprinter, Usain Bolt, but was disqualified.
Four athletes will compete independently at this year’s Olympics. Absent from the parade was the marathon runner, Guor Marial, the only South Sudanese athlete competing at London. South Sudan does not have a National Olympic Committee; therefore, Marial has to compete under the Olympic flag. Marial refused an offer to represent Sudan in the Games, citing the bloody civil war that lead to the creation of South Sudan as his reason.
Libyan athletes had to endure a dictator-toppling revolution last year. Despite political instability, the Libyan athletes trained in sub-par facilities, some damaged by the fighting. On top of that, it is the Islamic month of Ramadan, in which observing Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. Sofyan Fathi Aljaddi, a swimmer, says he will fast the whole month, even on his competition day.
Libya has never won an Olympic medal in its history in the Games. In Athens 2004, Libya sent eight athletes, and in Beijing 2008, it only sent seven.
5. South Africa
There are two South African athletes you should look out for. One is Caster Semenya. Three years ago, officials questioned the 800-meter runner’s gender. Despite the humiliating scandal, she proudly and calmly carried the South African flag in the Opening Ceremony.
Oscar Pistorius, a Paralympian sometimes known as the “Blade Runner,” is a 400 meters and 4-by-400 meter relay runner. He fought a long legal battle for the ability to compete in the Olympics. There is a controversy surrounding Pistorius’s carbon-fiber blades. Some scientists and athletes argue that the blades’ bounce gives him an unfair advantage. Nevertheless, he is expected to participate.