The Olympic Games are the largest multi-sports event globally, and whether it’s the Summer Olympics or the Winter Olympics, I am glued to the TV for two weeks. I’ve watched all the Olympic Games since Los Angeles 1984 and cheer for Team USA, Team GB, and of course, all Caribbean athletes participating in the modern games.
I have even become more vested in the Olympic Movement after attending a number of events (Athletics, Beach Volleyball, BMX Biking, Diving, Swimming, etc.) at the London 2012 Summer Olympics and also being a volunteer Audience Leader/Mechanical for the Opening & Closing Ceremonies.
Sadly though, my beloved Montserrat, a British Overseas Territory, and a few other Caribbean countries have never been formally represented at the Olympics Games. Below I provide insight on why this is, along with detailing the Olympic medal count for each Caribbean country that has a National Olympic Committee.
Jim Carter from Downton Abbey & Imelda Stauton from Harry Potter at London 2012. Photo Credit: Ursula Petula Barzey.
Why doesn’t every Caribbean country have an Olympic team?
Not every Caribbean country has the opportunity to send athletes to the Olympics Games. This is because the International Olympic Committee added a rule to the Olympic Charter in 1996 which prevents dependent territories from applying to establish a National Olympic Committee. New applicants beyond the 206 existing individual National Olympic Committees must be recognized as an independent country by the international community.
Interestingly, before this rule was added to the Olympic Charter in 1996, there were already six dependent territories in the Caribbean with recognized National Olympic Committees. This includes three British Overseas Territories (Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, and the Cayman Islands), two territories of the United States (Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands), and one constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Aruba). All are able to maintain their International Olympic Committee membership.
So beyond Montserrat, what other Caribbean islands are missing out on having their own National Olympic Committee and athletes participating in the modern games? Well, British Overseas Territories (Anguilla and Turks & Caicos), France Territories ( Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Barthelemy, and Saint Martin), and Netherland Territories ( Bonaire, Curacao, Saba, Sint Eustatius, and Sint Maarten).
Usain Bolt at London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
Some Caribbean athletes from countries that do not have a National Olympic Committee can still represent their country at international sporting events like World Athletics, Commonwealth Games, and FIFA World Cup. However, for the Olympics Games, they can only compete for their “mother country.” This is less than ideal as while the athletes technically have access to more resources, it is difficult to access these resources and get noticed halfway around the world.
Also, representing your country of birth at the Olympic Games is one of the greatest honors for an athlete, and this is lost if you have to do so for colonial powers. Finally, Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) like Anguilla, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, and Montserrat would not benefit from the marketing and promotional opportunities that come with having athletes participating in the Olympics Games.
So is there hope for dependent territories in the Caribbean to join the Olympic Movement with their own National Olympic Committee? Well, the Olympic Charter would need to change, and this is unlikely in the near term. Gibraltar and Turks & Caicos have challenged the International Olympic Committee rule barring dependent territories in the courts, and their efforts have not been successful. But one can still hope, right? It is great to see the larger Caribbean countries win more and more medals, but knowing what it would mean to the smaller islands who are still dependent territories, they should be welcomed into the club!
That said, how have Caribbean countries done at the modern Olympic Games (which started with the first Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, in 1896, and the first Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France, in 1924)? Well below, I provide insight after a review of the Olympian Database.
General facts about Caribbean countries at the Olympics
- Haiti and Cuba were the first two Caribbean countries to take part in the modern Olympic Games. They did so at the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris.
- Haiti was the first Caribbean country to be formally recognized with the International Olympic Committee membership on January 1, 1924.
- Many English-speaking Caribbean territories first competed under the banner of the West Indies Federation at the Rome 1960 Summer Olympics. The thirteen competitors were known as “Antilles” and gathered two bronze medals.
- 22 Caribbean countries currently have National Olympic Committees. This includes Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & The Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, and the United States Virgin Islands.
- All 22 countries have participated in at least one Summer Olympic Games. However, only Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and Trinidad & Tobago, and US Virgin Islands have participated in at least one Winter Olympic Games.
- All 22 Caribbean countries with National Olympic Committees are also members of the Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees.
The five-ringed symbol of the Olympic Games. Photo Credit”: © International Olympic Committee.
Which Caribbean country has won the most Olympic medals?
- 14 of the 22 Caribbean countries with National Olympic Committees have won at least one Olympic medal.
- Collectively, Caribbean countries at the Olympic Games have won 391 medals. This includes 129 gold medals, 124 silver medals, and 138 bronze medals.
- Cuba has won 233 Olympic medals, the most of any Caribbean nation. These medals have been won in 15 different sports, but most are in Boxing, Athletics, Wrestling, Judo, and Fencing.
- Jamaica has won 88 Olympic medals, the second most of any Caribbean country. All of Jamaica’s Olympic medals have been in Athletics except for one in Cycling.
- Trinidad & Tobago has won 19 Olympic medals, the third most of any Caribbean country. Fifteen of the Olympics medals were in Athletics, three in Weightlifting, and one in Swimming.
- No Caribbean country has won a medal at the Winter Olympics.
Olympic Games Medal Table for Caribbean Region
|Country||IOC Member||First Olympics||Gold||Silver||Bronze||Total|
|Antigua & Barbuda||Yes, since 1/1/1976||Summer: Montreal 1976||0||0||0||0|
|Aruba||Yes, since 1/1/1986||Summer: Seoul 1988||0||0||0||0|
|The Bahamas||Yes, since 1/1/1952||Summer: Helsinki 1952||8||2||6||16|
|Barbados||Yes, since 1/1/1951||Summer: Mexico City 1968||0||0||1||1|
|Belize||Yes, since 1/1/1968||Summer: Mexico City 1968||0||0||0||0|
|Bermuda||Yes, since 1/1/1936||Summer: Berlin 1936 & Winter: Albertville 1992||1||0||1||2|
|The British Virgin Islands||Yes, since 1/1/1982||Summer: Los Angeles 1984 & Winter: Sarajevo 1984||0||0||0||0|
|Cayman Islands||Yes, since 1/1/1976||Summer: Montreal 1976 & Winter: Vancouver 2010||0||0||0||0|
|Cuba||Yes, since 1/1/1955||Summer: Paris 1900||84||69||80||233|
|Dominica||Yes, since 1/1/1993||Summer: Atlanta 1996 & Winter: Sochi 2014||0||0||0||0|
|Dominican Republic||Yes, since 1/1/1954||Summer: Tokyo 1964||3||5||4||12|
|Grenada||Yes, since 1/1/1984||Summer: Los Angeles 1984||1||1||1||3|
|Guyana||Yes, since 1/1/1948||Summer: London 1948||0||0||1||1|
|Haiti||Yes, since 1/1/1924||Summer: Paris 1900||0||1||1||2|
|Jamaica||Yes, since 1/1/1936||Summer: London 1948 & Winter: Calgary 1988||26||37||25||88|
|Netherlands Antilles||1950- 2011||Summer: Helsinki 1952 & Winter: Calgary 1988||0||1||0||1|
|Puerto Rico||Yes, since 1/1/1948||Summer: London 1948 & Winter: Sarajevo 1984||2||2||6||10|
|Saint Barthelemy||Not Eligible||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Saint Kitts & Nevis||Yes, since 1/1/1993||Summer: Atlanta 1996||0||0||0||0|
|Saint Lucia||Yes, since 1/1/1993||Summer: Atlanta 1996||0||0||0||0|
|Saint Martin||Not Eligible||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Saint Vincent & The Grenadines||Yes, since 1/1/1987||Summer: Seoul 1988||0||0||0||0|
|Sint Eustatius||Not Eligible||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Sint Maarten||Not Eligible||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Suriname||Yes, since 1/1/59||Summer: Mexico City 1968||1||0||1||2|
|Trinidad & Tobago||Yes, since 1/1/1947||Summer: London 1948 & Winter: Lillehammer 1994||3||5||11||19|
|Turks & Caicos Islands||Not Eligible||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|United States Virgin Islands||Yes, since 1/1/1967||Summer: Mexico City 1968 & Winter: Calgary 1988||0||1||0||1|
|Country||IOC Member||First Olympics||Gold||Silver||Bronze||Total|
- The Bahamas won its sixteen Olympic medals in two sports: Athletics & Sailing.
- Bermuda won its two Olympic medals in two sports: Triathlon & Boxing.
- Cuba won its 233 Olympic medals in fifteen sports, including Boxing, Athletics, Wrestling, Judo, Fencing, Baseball, Volleyball, Weightlifting, Canoeing, Taekwondo, Shooting, Swimming, Cycling, Sailing, and Basketball.
- The Dominican Republic won its twelve Olympic medals in four sports, including Athletics, Boxing, Taekwondo & Weightlifting.
- Grenada won its three Olympic medals in Athletics.
- Guyana won its one Olympic medal in Boxing
- Haiti won its two Olympic medals in two sports: Athletics and Shooting.
- Jamaica won its 88 Olympic medals in two sports: Athletics and Cycling.
- Puerto Rico won its 10 Olympic media in four sports, including Athletics, Boxing, Tennis, and Wrestling.
- Suriname won its two Olympic medals in Swimming.
- Trinidad & Tobago won its 19 Olympic medals in three sports, including Athletics, Swimming, and Weightlifting.
- The United States Virgin Islands won its one Olympic medal in Sailing.
Caribbean Olympic Athletes
- The first Caribbean athlete to win an Olympic gold medal was the Cuban fencer Ramón Fonst at the Paris 1900 Summer Olympics.
- The first Caribbean athlete to win a gold medal in Athletics was Jamaica’s Arthur Wint, a.k.a. “The Gentle Giant,” who won the 400 meters race at the London 1948 Summer Olympics.
- Deon Hemmings from Jamaica was the first female Caribbean athlete to win an Athletics gold medal. She won gold in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics.
- The most successful Caribbean athlete at the Olympic Games is Usain Bolt of Jamaica, who won eight gold medals across three Olympic Games, including the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, 2012 London Summer Olympics, and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics.
- Caribbean athletes are not paid by their governments for winning medals. Most profit off their Olympic experience through sponsorships or brand deals.
NOTE: The figures above include medals awarded through the end of the Toyko 2020 Summer Olympic Games.