by Anura Guruge
The medals table for Rio 2016 in terms of TOTAL MEDALS per country — for 10 medals and up. Click to ENLARGE.
TOTAL MEDALS relative to the POPULATION of the country. Very different. #1, #2 & #3 in terms of ‘totals’ come towards the bottom of the table.
GOLD MEDALS relative to the POPULATION of the country. Very different. #1, #2 & #3 in terms of ‘GOLDS’ — the ranking you are most used to seeing. But when population is factored in they come towards the bottom of the table.
I used to have a very British father-in-law who was passionate and knowledgeable about sports — in particular football, cricket, rugby, Formula 1 and the Olympics. I used to spend a lot of time talking and watching sports with him. We would even call each other up on the phone to talk cricket and he used to take me to football games (he a Bristol City Season Ticket holder) and I would take him to cricket matches, especially Tests and World Cups at Lord’s. He, whenever, the Olympics (whether Summer or Winter) or the Commonwealth Games came up, would maintain, unwaveringly, that “it was a percentage game”. He was totally convinced that countries with large populations stood a better chance at winning medals than countries with smaller populations since the larger countries, obviously, had a bigger catchment pool. To be fair to him this argument does have some merit.
I think of his contention every time the Olympics come around.
The medal numbers in Rio are, of course, skewed because so many of the Russian athletes were banned because of the doping scandal. If their whole contingent had been able to participate — doping, notwithstanding, Russia would have had more medals.
But I, remembering “Walt’s sage saying”, always try to work out whether it is indeed but a percentage game.
And as my two tables above confirm — IT IS NOT!
Yes, Jamaica is an exception — thanks to Usain Bolt.
But you have the likes of New Zealand, Denmark, Croatia etc.
This medals/population is a very sobering table to consider.
The achievements of U.S. & China — and even my own Great Britain — don’t look as impressive from this perspective.
And it begs the question. What is WRONG with India? A population nearly as big as China, and nearly 4x greater than that of the U.S. and they can only win 2 medals — one silver in women’s badminton & one bronze women’s 58kg freestyle wrestling. Does not make sense. Ditto for Pakistan. No medals! I won’t even mention Sri Lanka. 21 million people and no medals.
Study these tables. They do tell an important story.
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by Anura Guruge