Why does Puerto Rico have an Olympic team?

When the American Samoa Olympic Team marched into Olympic Stadium at the start of the London games a few days ago—fifth in line behind Greece, Afghanistan, Albania, and Algeria—the Twitterverse erupted in disbelief. Those not commenting on team’s Polynesian garb seemed genuinely shocked that American Samoa was actually a real place. Most of the American Samoa-related Tweets I noticed inevitably mentioned Girl Scout Cookies in some way. One viewer asked whether “American Thin Mint” would be the next team to enter the stadium.

Last night, when NBC aired Puerto Rican athlete Javier Culson’s bronze medal performance in the 400 Meter Hurdles, reactions from American viewers familiar with the island’s status as a US Territory ranged from confused to apoplectic. Some asked how Puerto Rico could compete if not an actual country. A few accused Puerto Rico of disloyalty and demanded that we start taxing the territory. Others simply asked whether Puerto Rico’s medals could be counted as US medals in the event of a tie with China. Continue reading