by Tom Kando
No matter how much this is denied, most people probably link Olympic success with some sort of national, moral superiority. Medals equal national pride. Well, this is precisely the idea which I will NOT touch with a ten-foot poll in the present article. What I DO want to do is offer some OTHER explanations, or at least correlates, of Olympic success and failure. This is pop sociology, speculation meant to draw your interest.
This year, once again, the usual countries dominated the medal count. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US has usually been dominant, with China rising as somewhat of a competitor in recent years. During the Cold War, the Soviets and their vassals (particularly East Germany) were in the forefront of the medal count, thanks to massive cheating.
At first, a country’s most obvious advantage seems to be a large population: The top eight countries in the overall medal count - the US, the UK, China, Russia, Germany, France, Japan and Italy - are all among the world’s twenty most populous nations. However, such rankings are unfair, as they do not take population size into account. Is China, with nearly a billion and a half people, not entitled to more medals than Grenada, with a population of 100,000? (There are fourteen thousand times as many Chinese as Grenadians!).Read more...