There’s many different opinions on this subject, and rightfully so. This is my opinion: It’s a bit ridiculous to use the argument that it adds diversity to the mix to allow only two gymnasts per country into an individual all around final or that diversity should be a factor at all. The Olympics (and worlds etc.) is about countries coming together. But it’s not necessarily about diversity, it’s about being the BEST. That is the point of gold medals. The Olympics are about being the greatest single human being in a sport, winning means winning. The very best should be competing and the best should be winning. Giving others a shot who haven’t earned high enough scores is not fair, it’s in a sense, cheating. I know that sounds harsh, but that’s what competing is.
The soviets dominated for years because their system was better than everyone elses. They had a government run gymnastics factory that no one else had or could legally create. Those are the facts. The two per country rule for all around competition was not in place during the Soviet era. Today we look back and say, “Wow, they were the best” We fawn over them. We marvel over them. We don’t look back and go “Aw, that really wasn’t fair for America or France or Sweden.” It’s simple: because we weren’t as good as them—we just weren’t as good as them.
Now it’s the USA who is the best. Now it’s our turn. And that’s how it should work in sports. There should always be reserve spots for countries that don’t field a team, but not at the expense of a world champion who posts the fourth best score in the world during Olympic qualifications. That is utterly bonkers. I would have rather seen Jordyn Wieber giving Gabby Douglas a run for her money in the all around than Rie Tanaka or any other add-in who took her spot. I had more invested in the compelling opportunity to see Grinshina get the chance to prove herself after a bad team finals showing, than I did in seeing Marta Pihan-Kulesza of Poland get an opportunity to finish 19th. Two per country does not sort out the best. It simply makes it easier to win.
To that point, the two per country rule creates for mundane, predictable competitions, in which few outsiders and underdogs have the chance to break into the medals. The third athlete from a team often times could act as the spoiler, behind their two favored teammates. There was more opportunity for upset, and thus more opportunity for achievement and more opportunity for competition.
So now the numbers:
The two per country rule has been in place in event finals for over 20 years. And should remain in place. In a field of 8 gymnasts, if two are from a single country then they make up 25% percent of the field. That’s a lot. But ultimately that seems to be deemed fair by the FIG. In the current all around final there are 24 athletes, with 2 being from the same country they make up only 8.3% of the field. When the field of all arounders was 36 and 3 were available per country that meant that a single country could take up at most….8.3% of the field.
So by the numbers, nothing has changed at all with the 2 per country rule except 12 fewer athletes getting a shot to compete in the All Around final.