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I found this to be strange: in Wikipedia,

Russia at the 2008 Summer Olympics
Russia competed at the 2008 Summer Olympics

How different is the meaning if at is changed to in?

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Possible dupe of: english.stackexchange.com/questions/66295/… – coleopterist Aug 3 '12 at 17:14

"I was at the venues of the 2008 Olympics" can be shortened to "I was at the 2008 Olympics".

"I participated in the events of the 2008 Olympics" can be shorted to "I was in the 2008 Olympics".

In your example, both are fine, especially seeing as the context clearly describes that Russia were at the venues participating.

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My friend, Philippe, a championship fencer, is at the London 2012 Summer Olympics.

However, he is attending as a spectator, and is therefore not in the London 2012 Summer Olympics.

SUPPLEMENT: While both at and in may be correct when the referenced person/entity was present and competed, they are not interchangable when both did not occur. I think it is tautological that anyone in the Olympics must be at the Olympics (since you can't phone it in), but the obverse is not so.

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The second example doesn't seem to work seeing as Russia competed at the 2008 Summer Olympics. – ardentsonata Aug 3 '12 at 16:52

In your example there is no substantial difference if at is substituted by in. However at conveys ambiguity when not used with a nation since, for example, a spectator can also be at but not in.

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I would argue that, if you described a nation as being at the Olympics, most would assume participation. I should add that I agree with your answer though. – Ste Aug 3 '12 at 17:26
@Ste Quite right, the ambiguity confused me! – Tony Balmforth Aug 3 '12 at 17:30
Then, the original example was not well written? – Nortonn S Aug 3 '12 at 17:58
@rednow The original was fine. I was referring to my answer which I subsequently edited to make clearer. – Tony Balmforth Aug 3 '12 at 18:05

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