Who Really Won in the Medal Standings at Beijing – Jamaica?
Football season has just started and the stretch run of the baseball regular season is under way. My favorite baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays, are making their annual September push for 2nd in the wild card chase. So what better time to look at the Olympics, which everyone got tired of reading about as soon as they ended last month, than now?
Depending on where you look, the United States finished either first or second in the medal standing at the Olympics. They had the most medals, beating China 110-100 but had less gold medals. However, using another method, comparing medals to population, reveals entirely different results and a 17th place finish. Led by Bolt and the track team, Jamaica actually had the greatest amount of medals per population. Jamaica won an astounding medal per every 255,000 living in the country, including infants, small children and seniors. By comparison, the United States won a medal for only every 2,762,000 people.
These results were obviously influenced by Bolt’s dominance on the track, but likewise, the United States had an athlete that did pretty well in the pool. Based on the method of population/medals, 2nd in the ranking went to Australia while Cuba finished 3rd. Held down by a population of over 1.3 billion people, China finished 20th out of the 20 countries measured (the top 20 in overall medals were compared). Belarus’ performance should certainly be noted. They finished 4th overall in population/medal ratio of the top 20 countries. What is especially impressive about this feat is, of the 20 countries, Belarus’ GNI (gross national income) per capita is only $4220, lower than 13 of the other countries. By comparison the GNI per capita in the United States is $46,040.
I thought this would just be an interesting thing to look at and I had no preconceived notions before looking at the statistics. What they reveal is that the United States might not be the most athletic country but rather one that benefits from its large population and economic strength. Given that the United States has the highest GNI per capita on the list and the 2nd highest population, dominance in the medal standings should be achieved. It also shows Canada finished about where it should; Canada finished 10th in population/medals while having the 4th highest GNI per capita on the list.
While a simple statistical analysis obviously does not prove anything, and is not protracted over any length of time, Australia, Cuba, Jamaica, Belarus and Kazakhstan should be especially happy with their athletes’ performance at the Olympic Games. For complete results and sources, please see the attached spread sheet.