This is more of a lighter “politics” story, really, but still interesting. During the Olympics I noticed something odd about the way medals were being counted. China’s official web site showed the medal count sorted by gold medals instead of total medals awarded per nation, which seemed odd to me because NBC had been reporting the count by total medals. So I looked into it and apparently the International Olympic Committee does it China’s way — by gold medals.
Here’s China’s official page, in English:
Here’s the Wikipedia medal count article, which includes an explanation of the IOC’s official means and highlighting China as the “winner”:
The ranking in this table is based on information provided by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The ranking sorts by the number of gold medals the athletes from a nation have earned (in this context, a “nation” is an entity represented by a National Olympic Committee). The number of silver medals is taken into consideration next and then the number of bronze medals. If nations are still tied, equal ranking is given and they are listed alphabetically by IOC country code.
So then I ran across this story today:
US Pleased with Olympic Medal Count
On top of that, as the country that introduced and perfected the concept of sabermetrical parsing, the U.S. came up with a way to finish on top in gold medals.
Counting its dominance in team sports in the final week of the Games, “More individual U.S. athletes will carry home gold medals around their neck than any other nation, if you want to count it that way,” said Jim Scherr, U.S. Olympic Committee CEO.
By that measure, the Americans routed the home team. Computing gold medals presented to each athlete on teams in men’s and women’s basketball, men’s volleyball, women’s rowing, beach volleyball and relay teams in track and swimming, among others, the U.S. claimed 125 total golds to 74 for China. In total medals awarded, the United States scored 315 to 186 for China.
Rofl! You just gotta love that kind of parsing. But hey, that’s cool, that’s a lot of athletes going home with medals. This quote from USOC chairman Peter Ueberroth is priceless:
“We’re fascinated like any other country by gold medals, but what is more important in a way is that our team sports do very well.
Of course, statistics can often hurt as much as they help:
But the flip side of such numbers-crunching is that the U.S. did not medal in 16 of 38 disciplines or sub-disciplines, and in five sports was unable to achieve even a single top-eight finish.
I think the American athletes have plenty to be proud of, and I haven’t heard any of THEM talking about medal counts or statistics. Good for them.
And I think the real story of these Olympics is China’s emergence, but the next most important story is the fact that more countries medaled than ever before, and more countries won gold medals than ever before. That’s the real spirit of the games.
August 25th, 2008, posted by Pangloss