The olympics have become boring without any Cold War rivalry. So far, the US is leading in the medal count as expected. I couldn’t help but wonder how would things be if the Soviet Union hadn’t broken up.
Here are the results…
As of Monday morning, the combined former Soviet Republics had 70 medals.
Russia 38 Ukraine 14 Belarus 11 Georgia 3 Estonia 2 Azerbaijan 2 Kazakhstan 1 Lithuania 1
The US had 61. So, the Soviets would be in the lead 72-61. However, you’d have to cut their number back a bit becuase with only one team, you wouldn’t have as many competitors, especially in team events, so you wouldn’t be able to win as many medals. But even assuming you were to discount the number of medals by 10% (which I think is too big) they’d still be in the lead……assuming that there weren’t Americans who missed out a medal to someone who wouldn’t have made the Soviet team.
Behind the US right now in medals is China. Its really interesting to look at what sports we have won our medals in versus China.
The US has won the majority of their medals is Swimming and Track and Field. The Chinese have won in Table Tennis, Badmitton, Shooting, Fencing, Judo, and low weight class Weightlifting.
The whole notion of a medal count is sort of dumb. Some sports hand out medals like their candy. In swimming they just do different permutations of everything they can think of. Swim like this. Now do it longer, no do it on a relay. Now change your stroke. Now do a differnt stroke. Now combine your strokes. The same is true in shooting.
Soccer sucks up an enormous part of the intellectual and physical attention of athlets around the world, yet it only counts as one medal. They should weigh the relative importance of medals by the number of people that win the medals (ie: swimming individual events = x1, swimming relay = x4, etc) Its a pretty rough way to do it, but it would better than just raw events. It would also make the men’s baseball and basketball teams look even worse too, which is a good thing.
Another interesting thing I heard lately was the slowdown in the advancement in world records in track and field. Note the following records for men:
Events Year Record Was Set High jump 1993 Long jump 1991 Shot Put 1990 Discus 1986 Pole Vault 1994 Hammer 1986 400 Hurdle 1992 100 Hurdle 1993
There are several explainations for this. 1) They test for steriods now and they didn’t in the 80’s when Eastern Europe did it like crazy. 2) There are physical limits and once people start bumping into them you should expect records to be broken infrequently and by small amounts.