We use the nationality field for a few situations where we feel the NOC field alone does not give sufficient information:
1) For the earliest editions of the Olympic Games between Athens 1896 and the St. Louis 1904, athletes were registered by their National Olympic Committee, when it existed. Frequently, athletes were selected and registered by clubs, independent of their nationality. This was frequently the case in team sports or relays, although there are other examples. In specific cases, the athletes’ participation and medals are associated with the club’s country and not necessarily with the athlete’s nationality. This means that an athlete from country XXX may have competed and won medals for country YYY. In team events, when a team was registered as a club, the club’s country is the one used. When known, country, affiliation (clubs), and nationality are displayed. In the case of athletes without a club affiliation known, the country displayed is the nationality of the athlete.
2) The world has changed a lot since the first modern Olympics in 1896. Previous Olympics have seen nations that no longer exist, such as the Soviet Union, or Czechoslovakia; athletes would nowadays compete for e.g. Ukraine or Slovakia. Conversely, some athletes from present-day nations competed when their countries did not yet exist or where a colony or under occupation, such as Algeria or Korea. We feel it is interesting to be able to find athletes using this present-day nationality.
3) Coaches at the Olympics do not necessarily represent their own country. For example, a US basketball coach might be hired to lead teams representing a different NOC. In our database, we list this coach as representing that NOC; the nationality field represents his or her actual nationality.