The Olympics: An Alternative Medals Table

Rowan Callick – The Australian

Copyright The Australian
Jamaica tops medals list in alternative tables
Article from: The Australian
Rowan Callick, China correspondent
August 22, 2008 12:00am
WHAT is the “true” medals table? There is always controversy at the Games where purists claim the tables count for little and the joy of competing and Olympic comradeship is all that counts.
The usual debate is whether the table should be measured by gold medals or total medals. Some even espouse a third option, whereby the medals are weighted, usually four for gold, to give winning its due, two for silver and one for bronze.
James Riordan, professor of sports history at Britain’s Surrey University, says: “The message that winning is everything is not the message the Games are supposed to convey. Why have silvers or bronzes?”
There are 10,500 athletes in Beijing, and for the International Olympic Committee, this is what counts, along with the number of world records achieved during the Games, and the number of countries that get to compete.
Simon Forsyth, a researcher based in Brisbane, produces tables that help assess how well countries are doing from a range of perspectives beyond the bottom line of just gold medals.
First, by gold medals measured against population.
Jamaica, not surprisingly, tops this list thanks to its extraordinary sprinters, led by superstar Usain Bolt. Then comes Bahrain, due to its Morocco-born 1500m runner Rashid Ramzi. New Zealand, with its three gold medallists (boardsailer Tom Ashley, women’s shot putter Valerie Vili and women’s double sculls rowers Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell), scores consistently well on such tables and is fourth, after Estonia.
Australia tends to rate around the same on such measures, as it does in the lists that merely measure total medals won. In this case, sixth.
Britain, which is soaring in the overall medals tables, comes 13th, Germany 22nd, Russia 26th, the US 29th and China 40th — pointing to the potential for China to keep improving its performance as it invests more and its population becomes wealthier.
It also hints that the US is boxing beneath its weight, possibly because of a lack of state investment in sporting infrastructure and in its athletes.
Measured by total number of medals per million population, Jamaica still comes top, followed by Slovenia, then New Zealand, with Australia fourth.
Britain slips further down on this list, to 21st, while Germany comes 36th, Russia 38th, the US 42nd, Japan 49th and China, whose gold outnumber its silver and bronze combined, well down at 60th.
On the weighted medals table, with a gold medal worth four points, a silver two and a bronze one, Jamaica stays top, followed by Bahrain, Slovenia, New Zealand, Estonia and Australia.
Britain comes 17th, Germany 30th, Russia 35th, the US 38th, Japan 47th and China 56th.
The table looks very different when medals are weighted against a country’s economic performance, measured by its gross domestic product.
With one big exception. Jamaica still comes in top. But poverty thrusts countries up on this scale, with Mongolia second with its single gold in judo, Zimbabwe sixth with its gold to Kirsty Coventry in the 200m backstroke, and North Korea 10th with two gold.
In total medals against GDP, Jamaica remains top, with Australia 31st, China 40th, Britain 49th, and the US 71st.
In the weighted medals score against GDP, Jamaica is top, Australia 31st, China 35th, Britain 45th and the US 62nd.
How do these performances at the Games measure against those at the Athens Olympics?
In gold medals against population four years ago, the Bahamas came first, Australia third, New Zealand seventh, Russia 22nd, Germany 27th, Britain 28th, the US 34th and China 53rd.
In total medals against population at Athens, the Bahamas again came first, Australia second, Britain 33rd, the US 39th and China a lowly 70th.
In the weighted medals table against population, the Bahamas again scored first, Australia second, with Britain 31st, the US 38th and China 67th.
Measuring gold medals against GDP, Georgia came top, with Australia 25th, China 27th, Britain 49th and the US 57th. Eritrea topped total medals against GDP, Australia was 29th, China 41st, Britain 62nd and the US 69th. And in the weighted medal score against GDP, Georgia came top, Australia 30th, China 36th, Britain 60th and the US 68th.

1 thought on “The Olympics: An Alternative Medals Table”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *