Want to be a flag bearer in the next Olympics but have no discernible athletic skills? If so, then take a page from faux cross-country skiers Gary di Silvestri and Angelica Morrone di Silvestri, the middle-aged couple who finagled their way into Sochi.
While the vast majority of Olympic athletes spend their entire lives honing a very specific skill, the di Silvestris appear to have gamed the Olympic system to attend Sochi, according to reports in Deadspin and U-T San Diego. Gary, a native of Staten Island, and Angelica, from Italy, attended Sochi's opening ceremony as the flag-bearers (and sole representatives) of the tiny Caribbean nation of Dominica. Unlike other carpetbaggers, though, the two have no links to Dominica — not to be confused with the Dominican Republic — and say they have only visited once. So how did they become citizens, not to mention Olympic team members? Well, they allegedly paid for it.
Yes, the pay-for-Olympic-berth scheme is alive and well, as the di Silvestris have shown. Their path to Sochi is a good lesson in how to manipulate the Olympic minimum requirements to check off another bucket list adventure. For your benefit (Rio 2016, anyone?), here's our step-by-step guide to the di Silvestri Plan to enjoying the Olympics firsthand.
1. Get a lot of money, preferably by nefarious means
The first step is the most important: get rich enough to purchase citizenship in a small country. Mr. di Silvestri worked in finance and the missus as an executive with Fiat, which is where the money allegedly came from. They also, not coincidentally, have had run-ins with the law. The two were linked to a massive tax fraud case related to their sale of a mansion in the Caribbean, Deadspin reported, though they were never indicted. Whether legal or otherwise, be sure to have a lot of cash on hand.
2. Invent an athletic past
In interviews, Gary di Silvestri boasted of an athletic past featuring several impressive accolades: two-time wrestling state champion and crew national champion at Georgetown. Those contributed to the belief that, although di Silvestri only began cross country skiing at 30 years old, he had the natural athleticism necessary to shine. There was only one problem: "Neither claim holds up," Deadspin's Dave McKenna reports. Upon investigation, di Silvestri was not a wrestling champion, and although he was technically a member of Georgetown's rowing squad, he wasn't good enough to be in the main boat.
But hey, he established his athletic credentials, a key step in the Sochi-going process.
3. Find a cash-needy Caribbean country willing to offer citizenship
Citizenship in a country with little Olympic competition is key here. Dominica, the tropical island without any former Winter Olympians, features an "economic citizenship program," in which people can purchase citizenship for $175,000. "[We] made a financial contribution to the country that went to different projects, and in return they granted us citizenship,” Gary told The New York Times. Here's where the money is most important.
Oh, and you don't even need to visit that country to get citizenship. For a few thousand dollars, you can take the citizenship test overseas in your own comfortable $20 million Montana home. "The di Silvestris say they visited Dominica several years ago but do not maintain a residence there," UT-San Diego writes. Visiting is basically overachieving.
4. Choose a sport that the mainstream media doesn't know much about.
This way, nobody in the media looks too closely at the sketchy back story. Cross-country skiing is particularly good for this: only individuals compete, the field is massive, and it rarely makes big news, making the story of any single athlete easy to forget or ignore.
Most importantly, cross-country skiing has some of the lowest minimum requirements of any sport. The di Silvestris qualified by finishing last or close-to-last in a series of lower-level events, largely because they, like hypothetical you, have no real talent. The turning point for Angelica was a race in Maine against competitors from small liberal arts colleges, in which she finished 74th out of 95 competitors. That was essentially all she needed to qualify for the Olympics, strangely enough. Sports!
Extra tip: Before you go, be sure to get the Associated Press to take photos of you looking like an athlete.
5. Attend the Olympics as an athlete!
Woohoo! You finally made it! Hold the flag for your adopted country! Get on Tinder in the Olympic Village! Hit the sketchy Sochi bars every night! Adopt stray dogs! Do whatever it is real Olympic athletes do in Sochi. And remember, you can't get in trouble, because you are a distinguished Olympic athlete.
6. Get an "injury" or "illness" that takes you out of the competition.
No, do not actually perform in that sport and be revealed as an non-athletic bozo. Instead, succumb to a mysterious injury and fail to show up to the race, as Angelica did. Or if you do show up to the race like Gary, exit early and blame that failure on a stomach virus due to bad water in the Olympic Village. Gary did make it 300 meters of the 15k race — two percent of the race — before collapsing in the snow. Good try, bud.
7. Add "Olympic athlete" to your resume.
That was all this was about anyway, right?