Let’s face it: the Rio Olympics are shaping up to be a disaster. Athletes are pulling out left and right, and the only events that will truly be worth watching are those for which an Olympic medal is the highest achievement. And you can hardly blame athletes for wanting to bail out, as just about everything that could go wrong in an Olympic host city has come to fruition in Rio. From the Zika Virus to political unrest to sewage draining into every body of water, this ain’t your grandparents’ “Ipanema and Copacabana” version of Rio.
With that being said, there are still athletes from around the world for whom the Olympics are the only real shot at a competing on an international stage with everyone watching. Every four years, incredible people from small island nations and tiny countries get their one chance to fulfill their dreams; as many of them hail from places that offer very few opportunities to play sports professionally.
The Olympics, no matter how ill-conceived their locations may be, always provide inspirational stories of hope, pride and perseverance by the underdog. And who doesn’t love a good underdog story?
You probably already know the teams and the sports that you love, and who you will be rooting for once the Games begin. But I can almost guarantee that these small countries aren’t on your radar, and they need some love too. So here are 7 countries competing in the Olympics that you’ve never heard of.
Who knows, perhaps an athlete from one of these countries will be the great underdog story of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.