After the Olympic Games – The Final Standings

During the Olympic Games, one of the things that interested me was the debate about the medals table. Some people were saying that the method of publishing the rankings so that gold medals were counted first, then silver and so on, led to a distortion of the achievements of each country. Thus, as one commentator pointed out, a country with only one gold medal would be higher in the rankings than a country that had fifty silvers.

Clearly this would be wrong, but this absurd situation is perhaps unlikely to ever happen.

The organisers of the Games, as they were Chinese, would naturally go along with the system as it currently stands, since they beat every other country in the number of gold medals by a healthy margin.

I have found two sites that give slightly different rankings for the final standings. The NBC report ranks the countries on the total number of medals, while the report from BBC Sport adopts the more official line. Is it merely a coincidence that the NBC version puts America at the top, while the BBC, being British and moreover the only major TV channel that is ad free, remains more impartial? Could it be that the NBC reporters could not tolerate the idea of the USA coming second in the final rankings? It is undeniably true that America won more medals of all colors than any other country, but can it really be right that a country should come first in the rankings through the fact that it achieved more second places than all the other countries?

Some might say that the USA in the next few years is going to have to get used to being second in many other ways than in sport. I would not presume though to have any opinion about that, since I have no expertise and little interest in economics or politics.

It was suggested that there should be a points value assigned to each medal, thus Gold=3, Silver=2, Bronze=1. The idea being that you would be including ALL the medals in the count (not only the golds), but recognizing that the medals have a different relative value. I spent a happy five minutes or so calculating the outcome of this system,and I found that the positions of the top 6 countries for 2008 was identical to that given in the BBC report, and in the official rankings, and the same thing happened when a Gold medal was given a points value of 4. I have no idea how all the countries places would be affected, since I lost interest in calculating after the top six.

So I think you’ll just have to accept the fact, China won. But after all, they should do, they have a population in the gazillions. If Jamaica had had the same population as China, then the gold medal tally of Jamaica would have been 3600. Who said the Jamaicans were laid back?