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How to qualify for the Olympic marathon

The prospect of being selected for the Olympic Games marathon is an ultimate goal for the majority of runners. Enormous reserves of willpower and many years of dedicated training are required to achieve such a goal, and the athletes that qualify for the Games consider themselves as being among the world's best. They will become Olympians, whether or not they win a medal.

In practical terms, in order to participate in the Olympic Games marathon, athletes have to abide by the Olympic Charter (the document containing all the rules of the International Olympic Committee) and the rules of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

Initially, the IAAF establishes the criteria of eligibility for the marathon ("qualifying standards") and submit these to the International Olympic Committee for approval. There are two qualifying standards, the "A standard" and the "B standard". The A qualifying standard is the more difficult one. Once the criteria are approved, the IAAF organizes qualification events.

The qualification events are held within a specific period of time. Marathoners must reach the qualification standards as set by the IAAF withint this time frame in order to be eligible to participate in the Olympic Games marathon. All performances must be achieved during competitions organised or authorized by the IAAF, its Area Associations and its National Member Federations. Results achieved at university or school competitions must be certified by the National Federation of the country in which the competition was organised. Performances achieved in mixed events between male and female participants, held completely in the stadium, do not normally count. Wind-assisted performances will not be accepted.

At the end of the qualification period, the National Federation propose a list of athletes adequately prepared for such a high level international competition, then it is the responsibility of the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of the athlete's country to enter the runners in the Olympic Games marathon.

The National Olympic Committees must first investigate the validity of the entries proposed by the national federations and ensure that no one has been excluded for racial, religious or political reasons or by reason of other forms of discrimination. The procedures and the deadlines for the entries of marathoners at the Olympic Games and their acceptances are established by the IOC Executive Board.

The National Olympic Committee can enter a maximum of 3 qualified marathoners if all nominated athletes meet the A standard, or 1 athlete if they have met the B standard only. Should there be 4 or more athletes who have reached the A standard, the NOC may nominate 3 athletes to be accredited for the event, and a fourth one who would be considered as a reserve. The same goes in case of 2 athletes reaching the B standard (1 accredited athlete, 1 reserve). The reserve athlete could be selected to replace an entered athlete. NOCs without qualified athletes are allowed to enter their best male athlete and their best female athlete: this applies equally to unqualified female entries from an NOC with qualified males, and vice versa. Acceptance of unqualified entries in the marathon will be at the discretion of the IAAF Technical Delegates, based on the technical standard of the athlete and the overall numbers of qualified athletes for the marathon. The unqualified athletes must be competitive at international level, proven through participation at recognised IAAF international events.

To seal his entry in the Olympic Games marathon, the athlete must finally sign the following declaration:

Understanding that, as a participant in the Olympic Games, I am participating in an exceptional event which has ongoing international and historical significance, and in consideration of the acceptance of my participation therein, I agree to be filmed, televised, photographed, identified and otherwise recorded during the Olympic Games under the conditions and for the purposes now or hereafter authorised by the International Olympic Committee ("IOC") in relation to the promotion of the Olympic Games and Olympic Movement. I also agree to comply with the Olympic Charter currently in force, in particular, with the provisions of the Olympic Charter regarding eligibility for the Olympic Games (including Rule 41 and its Bye-law), the mass media (Rule 49), and the allowable trademark identification on clothing and equipment worn or used at the Olympic Games (Bye-law to Rule 51). I also agree that any dispute arising on the occasion of or in connection with my participation in the Olympic Games shall be submitted exclusively to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, in accordance with the Code of Sports - Related Arbitration (Rule 59). I also agree to comply with the World Anti-Doping Code and with the IOC Code of Ethics. All relevant and applicable provisions and rules have been brought to my attention by my National Olympic Committee and/or my National Sports Federation or International Sports Federation.

Here are some other rules and regulations related to participating in the Olympic Games marathon:

Dual Nationality Athletes with dual nattionality may compete for the country of their choice. However, if they have already represented one country either at the Olympic Games or another major sports event, they may not compete for a different country before a period of three years has elapsed. In the Olympic Charter, the expression "country" means an independent State recognised by the international community.

Fair play - To be eligible for participation in the Olympic Games marathon, the athlete must respect the spirit of fair play and non violence, and behave accordingly.

Anti-doping code - By entering the Olympic Games, athletes are making a commitment to respect the Olympic values, including the World Anti-Doping Code, and agree to undergo doping tests. Throughout the Games, tests are carried out under the authority of the IOC and its Medical Commission. Tests may be conducted before or during the Games. For individual sports, such as the marathon, tests are performed on each athlete who places among the top five, plus two other athletes (in the heats or the final) chosen at random.

Financial consideration - The entry or participation of an athlete in the Olympic Games marathon shall not be conditional on any financial consideration.

Age limit - While there is technically no age limit for competing in the Olympic Games, the International Association of Athletics Federations requires participants to the Olympic Games marathon be at least 20 years old.

Advertising - Except as permitted by the IOC Executive Board, no athlete who participates in the Olympic Games marathon may allow his person, name, picture or running performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games.


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