Monday, August 13, 2012
Medals per Capita - Olympic Games 2012
In my post of Saturday July 27, 2012, I mentioned that I was sad that the Tour de France had ended. I had written the post the night before and published it at 1:00 am on Saturday morning. When I turned the TV on later than morning I was surprised to see some cycling event – I thought it was a Tour de France rerun, truly. Then I realized that the background did not look like some French country village and noticed a pub – it was a biking event for the Olympic Games! I kept watching and was very happy when Alexander Vinokourov of Kazakhstan came ahead of all the others and won the gold medal. Here he is below at the Tour de France 2012 (photo Wikimedia Creative Commons.)
Vino, as he is called, started bicycling when he was 11 years old. He was in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games as an amateur and finished 53rd. I saw him in many Tours de France, wearing the Kazakhstan’s colors of turquoise and gold. Last year I was watching the Tour de France live on TV when Vino plunged into a deep ditch with his bike. Two people had to go and retrieve him. I was hoping he was not hurt but he was – his femur was broken and he had to abandon the Tour. At the time he decided to retire but this year he returned into competitive cycling for one last year and made this unexpected victory. At 38 he can be very happy to have been victorious at the Olympic Games and defeating, by himself, the British cycling “dream team” and obtaining a gold medal for the men’s cycling road race. Vinokourov shown below with the gold medal (image source: Creative Commons Flickr user Lee.)
I watched a number of events on television during the Olympic Games but had to stop several times because there were too many commercial breaks. I read that television coverage was much better in Canada and Norway where a great variety of events were shown to completion with minimum commercials. Here, both the opening and closing ceremonies were edited for the US viewing audience. The British public was shocked to find out that the tribute to the victims of the “7/7 terrorist attacks” performance had been censored by NBC. NBC Spokesman said “Our programming is tailored for the US audience” - an interview with swimmer Phelps was inserted instead. I read a blogger who wrote “Can you imagine the BBC opting to cut out a tribute to 9/11 at a future Olympics held in the States because it wasn't "tailored for a UK audience"?' Since I did not see the Olympic Games in London I have to rely on photographs in the public domain, those without a copyright or some very mediocre shots taken from my small TV. Below is the Olympic Monument at the International Olympic Committee Building in Lausanne, Switzerland (public domain photo.)
During the week, I watched the US Men’s National Basketball team play against the Lithuanian Basketball team. LeBron James of the USA scored 20 points against the Lithuanians. The US team won by 99 to 94. I read about the US Men’s National Basketball team (Team USA) and saw that they were talented professionals picked from several states. They include players like Lebron James from the Miami Heat (originally from Ohio,) Kobe Bryant from the Los Angeles Lakers (originally from Phladelphia, PA,) Tyson Chandler from the New York Knicks (originally from California,) Kevin Durant from the Oklahoma City Thunder (originally from Washington, DC.) Then I looked at Lithuania – it is slightly larger than West Virginia with a population of 3,192,800. Below is Team USA player Kobe Bryant in pre-Olympic game (US Air Force public domain photo.)
I also watched the women’s handball Montenegro team playing against Russia. Montenegro, slightly smaller than Connecticut, has a population of 620,029 which is less than the city of Detroit, Michigan (713,777.) Russia has a population of 143,056,383. Thinking about this it seems to me that large and rich countries have an advantage as there is more money available and a larger pool of talent to choose from. The city of Los Angeles alone has more people – 4,065,585 than many of these other countries. What if Team USA members could only be chosen from the city of Los Angeles rather than from the whole USA? Below is Tower Bridge in London with the Olympic Rings (source: Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike.)
On another blog this week I saw a commenter who wrote that he wished US and China wouldn’t win so many medals. Another commenter replied that he was wrong – that US athletes trained very hard and had the same chances. I still think that larger and richer countries have an advantage. For example I was raised in France –I liked swimming, ice skating and horseback riding. I could only practice if I went on my own - no coach, no trainer. In college it was the same thing – there certainly was not a football or basketball field at La Sorbonne in Paris then – and I doubt that there are some now. But my husband was able to be on the rowing team at his college in Marietta, Ohio – he did not have to go and join an expensive club. Photo below – Rowing at the Summer Olympics (image source: Creative Commons Flickr user Steve Elliott.)
In the USA sports are a priority. Children can start early, then in high school sports are part of the school program. There are summer sport camps. Sport scholarships can be obtained to attend colleges and universities. In addition there are more sports clubs at the community level in a variety of sports to pick up promising young athletes. Then when professional athletes are chosen for Team USA, for example, it is easier to choose from a country of 313,382,000 (USA) than Tunisia (10,673,800) which played against them 10 days ago. This is not taking away from what the US athletes accomplished but it has to be acknowledged that sports are well funded here and other rich countries. Many poor countries don’t even have one Olympic size swimming pool and their athletes cannot afford a racing bicycle. "USA Swimming” a 300,000 member organization promotes swimming from the youngest ages. Look at their site here. Population is not as important, I believe, as a country’s wealth, because I don’t think Bangladesh with a population of 161,000,000 even entered the Olympics. Photo below is the 1896 Olympics Gold Medal (Public domain.)
While I was looking at the statistics of various countries I found a site showing the “Medals per Capita.” Their motto is “Olympic glory in proportion.” They also have calculated Olympic medals by each country’s gross domestic product. I thought it was quite interesting. New Zealand won 13 medals or 1 medal per 340,970 residents- so their rank is 4th. America with 114 medals comes in 40th place with one medal per 3.4 million residents. Here is the site: Medals per Capita. – I found it fascinating – it certainly gives a new perspective, but many may find it boring - or won’t care. Here are some shots of the closing ceremonies from my TV screen.
We watched the Closing Ceremonies last night. I enjoyed the “Imagine” performance with the pictures of John Lennon. London and all the participating countries should be proud of these Olympic Games – they were a success.