The 2016 Olympic games kicked off on Friday night and along with that the parade of nations. Olympians march into the stadium under their flag and full of pride. I was also surprised that there were a handful of countries that I’d never heard of. I consider myself pretty good at geography, and for an entire country to be off my radar is embarrassing. So, here is a shout out and a little respect to some of the lesser-known nations.
Benin has six athletes in the Olympics in events like Track and Field, Swimming, Judo and Fencing. It’s a west African country that has is roots in the 1600s. The area of the country is about 70,000 square miles, which makes it just a little bit smaller than Pennsylvania. The economy revolves around subsistence agriculture, cotton production, some small offshore oil fields and regional trade. The population of 10 million makes me embarrassed that I hadn’t heard of it before.
Comoros a small archipelago of islands in the Mozambique Channel of the east coast of Africa. Their Olympic team includes two in Swimming and two in Track and Field. The collected area of the islands is around 12 times the size of Washington, DC or 862 square miles. The collection of islands is home to 780,000 Comerons. The country is one of the poorest in the world with a limited infrastructure and few resources.
Sao Tome & Principe is fielding three athletes, two in track and one in canoeing. The small island nation is located in the Gulf of Guinea off the western equatorial coast of central Africa. Sao Tome & Principe became an independent country (from Portugal) in 1975. Its 190,000 citizens live in an area of only 372 square miles. You’ll thank them if you ever meet them; their number one export is cocoa.
Nauru, the world’s smallest republic, is fielding two athletes: one in Judo and one in weightlifting. The origin of the Nauru people is a mystery since their language and genetics are not similar to any of the other people in the south pacific. The island nation is eight square miles, or 1/10 the size of Washington, DC. Its 9,540 citizens make their living exporting phosphates and fishing.
Be honest. Had you ever heard of these countries? Better yet, have you visited any of them? If you have, please share your experience!