The Olympic movement for self-declared satirical nations is dead
Image via The Republic of Molossia
While the Rio Olympics—despite a Zika scare, last-minute construction, and a steroids scandal—avoided predictions of disaster this summer, another global sporting event quietly failed to materialize: the Intermicronational Olympics.
The event was billed as an Olympics alternative for micronations, which are self-declared states, ranging from silly to serious, that are unrecognized by sovereign nations and international organizations. Some exist exclusively online, while others also make geographic claims.
The games historically sought to legitimize these states and offer camaraderie. The Democratic Republic of Belia claimed online to be the host and organizer of this year’s installment. Ten micronations, including the Aerican Empire and the Republic of Molossia, based in Montreal and Nevada respectively, supposedly planned to compete.
But so far as anyone can tell, the games never happened. Both the Aerican Empire and Molossia tell GOOD they were never actually asked to participate and didn’t know the games were still going—which is especially odd because Molossia originated them.
The mysterious failure of the Belia Games isn't anything new for the world of micronational sports, though. It's just a symptom of the flightiness of most micronations, which makes the few established and serious micronations of the world wary of getting involved in big sporting events—and which ultimately doomed these games and a number of others.
Molossian President Kevin Baugh competing in the first Intermicronational Olympic Games
The first Intermicronational Olympic Games took place in September 2000, organized by Molossia and the now-defunct digital Kingdom of TorHavn. Molossian President Kevin Baugh invited the leaders of micronations he knew, including Corvinia, Republic of Eslo, Terra Firma, and the Triselene Imperium, to compete in a series of events, record their performance, and report it to a Molossian message board. Baugh held an opening ceremony alone in his front yard, under the Molossian flag.
The event program included the 100-meter dash, Frisbee discus, tennis ball shot put, and Yahoo Reversi. Everyone earned medals, except for Terra Firma’s sole participant, who forfeited his Yahoo checkers match.
Molossian President Kevin Baugh says the goal of the games was to help ground micronations in interactive reality, rather than isolated fantasy. “I believe that all micronations should exist as much as possible in the real world,” Baugh says, “doing real things in real places with real people.”
TorHavn organized a follow-up in April 2002, although only two micronations joined: Molossia and Farallonus, with the latter sweeping the gold.
Since then, other micronations—including the Republic of Secundomia and the Federal Commonwealth of Sirocco—have attempted their own reboots of the Intermicronational Olympics, but those iterations failed to launch, often with lapsed web domains and defunct email addresses as the only remaining evidence of said efforts. Some seem to be inventions of fictional micronations, which claim no clear physical territory, but create elaborate invented maps and histories. Belia’s proposed Olympics may have been one such fantasy.
A representative of the Potato Republic at Japan's Micronation Olympics
It’s not the first time an intermicronational Olympic movement rose and fell. In 1986, the Ginko Federation in Tokyo capitalized on a 1980s micronational boom in Japan—which had about 200 micronations at the time and currently has about 50—by trying to put together a centralized Olympics that received primetime (and bemused) television coverage. However, Japan’s economic collapse in the 1990s led to a rapid die-off of these gimmick and joke nations and the event disappeared.
Cesidio Tallini, an amateur micronations scholar, also is among those who have proposed an iteration of the games. His SIGNOR Games were to be held in Italy in 2013, featuring micronations, religions, and organizations that don’t usually get invited to sporting events. “Unfortunately,” he says, “the other people did not prove to be more active or reliable.”
Baugh, meanwhile, still organizes micronational events, including last April’s MicroCon, which featured grown men LARPing (live-action role play) in an Anaheim library. These events are silly, but they bring micronations into the real world, and the absurdity fits Baugh’s vision of using these mini-states as political satire.
However the tongue-in-cheek nature of these events, and poor organization of others, has soured the more serious principalities on the movement. For the Principality of Hutt River—a farmstead that declared independence from Australia in 1970 over a tax dispute and tries to operate like a legitimate sovereign state—they’re poison.
“We have nothing to do with the micronational movement,” says Lord Steven Baikie, a Hutt River administrator. Instead, the principality sends athletes to compete in mainstream sporting events. “We are not here as part of a game or because we thought it was a fun idea.”
Likewise, Prince Michael Bates of the 49-year-old Principality of Sealand (based on a decommissioned British defense platform in the North Sea) tells GOOD his kingdom predates the micronational movement and that their athletes have competed in legitimate sporting events. “We have even had our flag carried to the top of Everest,” he boasts, “and more besides.”
For aspiring nations, sticking to established sporting events makes sense. They believe they can attain legitimacy by getting recognized and proving competence amongst sovereign countries rather than mostly satirical pseudo-states.
But for those like Baugh who just want to play with the concepts of pomp and nationhood, micronational games are a fertile ground to have some fun. And even when they fall through, their failures can be an amusing low-stakes mindwarp of intrigue. Either way, their absurdity and follies are a pretty solid microcosm of the modern micronational environment.