Changing China

Giant on the move

Who’s top of the medals table?

August 19, 2008

Phelps with the great eightAmericans looking at the medals table to the right of this blog, or on the official Games website, might be surprised to see the host country topping the chart with 39 gold medals and 68 in total.

The New York Times website, meanwhile, has the United States on top with a chart-leading 73 medals in total, 23 of them gold.

We at Reuters rank nations by the number of golds. It’s the way the IOC does it and, according to Reuters sports editor Paul Radford, it’s the way that makes most sense.

Here’s what Paul had to say when I asked him about it:

Reuters serves international clients across the whole world and most of them want their medals tables prioritised by gold medals. It seems that it is mainly North America which takes a different attitude and where the total number of medals is the criterion used.

I can’t see the logic of the total medals system at all. That means giving the same value to a bronze medal as you would to a gold. If you look at the expression on athletes’ faces as they just finish second or third, it’s often one of disappointment that they did not get gold and the chance to call themselves Olympic champions; it’s less often delight at being a silver or bronze medallist unless they started as rank outsiders.

Some people say the silver medallist is the first of the losers. I think that’s a bit harsh personally but you can take the point. Look at it another way. If Michael Phelps had won six golds and two silvers, would anyone have described that as a greater achievement than Mark Spitz’s seven-gold medal haul? The answer is clearly not.

So we’ll stick to the logical order of running our table in gold medals order. If that puts China first and the United States second, then so be it. Our aim is to be objective and favour no nation above any other.

Do you agree? Let us know in the comments.

PHOTO: A combination photo shows Michael Phelps of the U.S. holding each of his eight gold medals in the swimming competition at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. REUTERS/Staff

Comments

Kao,Hey, the ultimate loser has to be Matt Emmons, the American who shot the wrong target on his last attempt (at a sure gold medal) at Athens in 2004 and then this year completely choked again on the last target (and lost again, handing the gold medal to a Chinese shooter). My God, if there were a gold medal for f**king up, Emmons would win that one easily.And let’s not forget the U.S. 4 by 100 relay teams. I ran track in high school and passing the baton is harder than it looks on TV (people don’t realize what it means to pass something off when you’re running full speed), but it’s not THAT hard. Thank God the 4 by 400 relay teams motored to golds.

Posted by Jeffrey in New York | Report as abusive
 

Kao,One more point. I did hear about the Chinese people mocking their men’s soccer team. I know how much the Chinese love soccer, so I can understand how angry you guys are that your team played so poorly. Listen, let’s hope they turn things around and do much better in London in four years.

Posted by Jeffrey in New York | Report as abusive
 

Jeffrey:1.our men’s soccer team will not go anyfurther, i serously doubt they would have the chance to compete in london in 2012.losing face in home is too much for us, doing it in london will kill us.2.Matt Emmons is instant Celebrity in china.and he is not the loser, he and his wife win our respect.3.i would stop posting any more comments, ’cause i know it’s not really meaningful to fight other cultures or traditions, instead, we respect them.4.my email:uaremyfirst@msn.com.

Posted by kao | Report as abusive
 

Hi JeffreyYou managed to come up with a list of medals that the US has won, to support the claim that they dominated team sports, which indeed they did. However, a Jamaican could write: “We dominated sprint events: Men’s 100m – gold; Women’s 100m – 1 gold and 2 silvers; Men’s 200m – gold; Women’s 200m – gold; Men’s 4×100 relay – gold”. Brits can say “We dominated track cycling – 7 golds, 3 silvers, 2 bronzes (I can’t be bothered to list individual events). China can say they dominated racket sports etc. etc.However, we’re getting off track here: the title of this debate, shown at the top of the page, is “Who’s top of the medals table?”, not “Who can boast the best about their country’s achievement in a specific sporting area?”So, Jeff, I answered your question about whether England’s a country, please answer me this one question:”Who finished top of the medals table in the 2008 Olympics?”

Posted by Jamie | Report as abusive
 

A medals table!-312M European Union pre-1991 10: 188 medals (60gold)1318M China 30 provinces: 100 medals (51 gold)303M USA 51 States: 110 medals (36 gold)(550M Euro.Union current 27: 280 medals (87 gold)My top:2.7M Jamaica 13 medals (6 gold)

Posted by Neil | Report as abusive
 

Neil,Don’t be a complete idiot. Each country is allowed a couple entrants in each competition, so you can’t compare how the US (one country) compared to the EU (multiple countries). Come on, use your head.Jamie,Track cycling?! WTF? Is that even a sport? Domination in ping pong and badminton? What is this, junior high? Summer camp?

Posted by Jeffrey in New York | Report as abusive
 

Jamie,China won the most gold medals and the USA won the most medals.

Posted by Jeffrey in New York | Report as abusive
 

Hi JeffreyI know, but who, in your opinion, finished top of the medals table in the 2008 Olympics?

Posted by Jamie | Report as abusive
 

Jamie,Quality of total medals? No question about it: the United States of AMERICA. Badminton, ping pong, and trampoline do not, in my view, reach the level of achievement of all of our track and field, swimming, and team sport medals. China, as a state, concentrated on picking up any ticky-tack gold medal they could. That was their stated plan. It was a stupid goal. It’s flashy and allows them to boast, but it’s a hollow boast. As Kao admitted above, even the Chinese know that they got a lot of medals in sports that no one cares about. How can you claim to be number one when you have no golds in track and field? Track and field in the foundation of the Summer Olympics. Did the ancient Greeks play badminton?

Posted by Jeffrey in New York | Report as abusive
 

Hi JeffreyBRILLIANT! Thanks for backing up the underlying point that I’ve been making throughout the debate: if the US don’t win, they will re-invent the rules so that they do. Be it deciding that gold=bronze (US media), or disregarding events that China won on the grounds that “no one cares” (Jeffrey in New York), you guys will always find a way to pretend you’re number 1.However, I can fully understand why you’ve done this. I’ve been in the States three times during the Summer Olympics and seen the coverage. In Britain, both live coverage and highlights consist of pretty much every event, regardless of who competes and wins, giving a well-rounded view of proceedings. In the US, the coverage consists of events that the US competes in, and the highlights consist of events that the US wins. So all that our American cousins are exposed to is event after event of the US kicking everyone else’s arse. This is why they’re so convinced that they’re the best and can’t stand to lose.Jeffrey, it’s not your fault that you’re so arrogantly pro-US: you’re the unfortunate victim of brainwashing at the hands of your nation’s media.So, please, everyone: stop having a pop at poor old Jeff – it’s not his that fault he’s the way he is.Jeffrey… I forgive you.

Posted by Jamie | Report as abusive
 

Sorry, that should have read “it’s not his fault that he’s the way he is”

Posted by Jamie | Report as abusive
 

Jamie,I guess you haven’t seen the CCTV coverage of the Olympics, then? Just ask any of the Chinese stopping by here how CCTV (state-controlled, mouthpiece for the CCP) rarely showed any Chinese athlete losing. I have a lot of gripes with NBC’s coverage (mainly because they held back a lot of live events to show them during primetime), but they showed all of the major events won by other countries. And, more to the point, you failed to counter my argument. Want to try again? How can China be considered the “winner” when they did not receive a single track and field gold medal?And you also didn’t answer a different question. Is track cycling a sport? And Hoy isn’t English, is he?Heh heh. This is fun.

Posted by Jeffrey in New York | Report as abusive
 

Jamie,By the way, there’s no “pretending” about it. We have the largest GDP in the world BY FAR: 13 TRILLION and counting. We have the most lethal military. We lead the world in science, technology, business, entertainment, and … yes, sports.Sorry, but those are the facts, my British friend. It’s a good thing we’re buddies. Yes, we kicked your arse in the Revolutionary War, but since then we also saved your arse in WWI and WWII. No thanks necessary. We’d do it again for a friend.

Posted by Jeffrey in New York | Report as abusive
 

Jamie,One more point. Britain probably does have a history of showing other countries winning. Why? For the simple fact that, in general, Britain does not win many medals. Duh!Do you remember your rank in the 1996 Summer Olympics? 36th place. Between Ethiopia and Belarus. Heh heh heh. With 1 gold medal, 8 silver, and 6 bronze, for a total of 15. Woo-hoo!Can you imagine if the BBC concentrated only on British athletes for those games? Talk about an advertising nightmare.Oh yeah, the US won 44 gold, 32 silver, and 25 bronze at those games, for a total of 101 medals. 44 to 1. Let me see you compute that medal-to-population statistic on that one. Lovely.

Posted by Jeffrey in New York | Report as abusive
 

Hi JeffreyWow – losing to China has really pissed you off – a 3 message temper tantrum, most of it going completely off the point of the Olympics. Anyway, I’ll briefly answer each of your questions:Q. I guess you haven’t seen the CCTV coverage of the Olympics, then?A. No, I haven’t. I was saying that the US coverage is biased, not that the Chinese coverage isn’t.Q. “How can China be considered the “winner” when they did not receive a single track and field gold medal?A. Simply because it’s based on all events, not just one area.Q. Is track cycling a sport?A. Yes, it is classed as an Olympics sport.Q. And Hoy isn’t English, is he?A. Hoy’s Scottish. But we compete as GB in the Olympics. It’s a bit like me saying “Phelps isn’t a New Yorker is he?”.”We have the largest GDP in the world BY FAR: 13 TRILLION and counting.”Yep. This is a bit like the medal table thing really – finding a way of making USA come out as number 1. I prefer HDI as a way of ranking countries (look it up). It puts Canada above you. But this is irrelevant to the discussion.”We lead the world in … and … yes, sports.”Do you? Taking your previous argument about why the US won the Olympics (China won ticky-tack events, USA won the major ones), then we should look at the two main sporting events – football and the Olympics. Brazil domainate football (although Italy are close with 4 WC wins compared to Brazil’s 5); and China dominated the Olympics (sorry to keep bringing that up). Where are USA now? OK, you probably dominate a few ticky-tack sports like baseball and American football that only about 5 countries play.”Yes, we kicked your arse in the Revolutionary War”We let you win cos we wanted rid of you. We still have the greatest country in North America though – Canada.”But since then we also saved your arse in WWI and WWII.” We had won already, you guys came along and took the credit. Here’s a sporting analogy – Asafa Powell claims that he won the 4x100m relay, even though he was handed the baton with Jamaica well in front.Anyway, most of the above is irrelevant – can we return to the whole point of this discussion: Olympics medal tables?I have questions:1. Who topped the medals table in the 1964 Olympics?2. Who topped the medals table in the 2008 Olympics?Whichever way you look at it, you have to admit the US didn’t win both. If you go by golds then USSR kicked your ass in ’64 (as they did in the Space Race); if you go by total medals then China kicked your ass in ’08 (as they did in Nam). Which is it to be Jeff?Predicted response: USA won both, backed up by really dodgy logic. This will be followed by a load of off-topic boasting by the teenager from New York about other things that America wins at, with a little bit of Britain-bashing chucked in. Go for it!

Posted by Jamie | Report as abusive
 

Thanks Jeffrey..I’m not a complete one yet, just training.I think you’ll find entrants allowed are three. Of course my US/EU comparison is a bit warped statistically, but not by as much as you may think. Here’s hoping you’ll open your mind.”Neil, Don’t be a complete idiot. Each country is allowed a couple entrants in each competition …….”

Posted by Neil | Report as abusive
 

Neil wrote: “Here’s hoping you’ll open your mind”. He’s American! The only things he opens are his ass (to speak) and his mouth (to stuff hotdogs in so that he can maintain his BMI of 35).

Posted by Jamie | Report as abusive
 

Jamie,You’re English, right? Okay, that helps me understand where you’re coming from.Okay, let’s go.Americans on the moon (starting forty years ago): SIX times.Soviet Union: ZERO.Phelps is from Maryland. The difference between Maryland and New York is NOT the same as the differences between Scotland and England. I’ve traveled through both England and Scotland, and I can assure you that the Scots do not consider themselves as just another administrative unit like a state in the United States. If you think so, then you better talk to a few Scots in the future.Have you ever heard of people enthusing about getting front-row tickets to a track cycling event?! I can just imagine that in 2012 the BBC will have wall-to-wall coverage of the track cycling heats while the rest of the world wonders, “WTF?”It’s obvious that you know very little about WWII. We not only had to save your arses but we had to lend you cash and supplies so you wouldn’t go bankrupt (google the lend-lease program). And that was just the European theater. We also had to defeat the Japanese in the Pacific Theater, where my Dad and two of my uncles fought. My Dad was on Saipan and my Uncle Chuck was on Iwo Jima.I would be interested to hear from any Canadians. I wonder if they know that you consider Canada still part of Great Britain.I note that you side-stepped the ’96 Olympics when Ethiopia beat you in the medal rankings. Hey, but you beat Belarus!He’s American! The only things he opens are his ass (to speak) and his mouth (to stuff hotdogs in so that he can maintain his BMI of 35).This is kind of crude, isn’t it? I’m 5’11″, 175 pounds. Do the math. Lean, mean, and can still run a respectable 400.Soccer is for fakers. I cannot watch the preposterous histrionics of soccer players, where they flail their arms around when another player gets within a foot of them. Jeezus, fricking pansies. Along with running track, I played AMERICAN football, where the threat of REAL, DAMAGING VIOLENCE was present on each and every play. Now THAT was fun. The idea of flailing around like a girl, as you do throughout your matches, is BENEATH CONTEMPT for Americans. Real Americans despise that thespian sport you call “football.”

Posted by Jeffrey in New York | Report as abusive
 

Hi JeffreyVery quickly, cos I’m falling behind with my work because of this debate!I’m half American, quarter English, quarter Scottish.Yes, I know it’s 12-0 on the moon thing, I was just winding you up.I’ve spoken to loads of Scots (my Dad for example).Yes, some people love it. Don’t dismiss it just cos it’s not your cup of tea.I know!I didn’t say Canada was part of GB; I was referring to the Commonwealth.Yep – we kicked Belarus’ ass – eat it Belarus!Very sorry for being crude.Yes, the fakers detract from the beauty soccer, but it’s great when played well.Your turn:1. Who topped the medals table in the 1964 Olympics?2. Who topped the medals table in the 2008 Olympics?x x x

Posted by Jamie | Report as abusive
 

Jamie,You’re half-American? Hm. Must be one of those anti-American Americans, right? Michael Moore’s tracts must be your usual vade mecums. Now I grant that, with his BMI, Moore could stand to be even more typically anti-American. It’s funny to see that fat slob in a baseball cap and disheveled appearance ranting about American society.I watched the last half of the Brazil-US women’s match and, to tell the truth, I thought it wasn’t a complete waste of time. The women were NOT flailing around, but fighting vigorously for the ball. I think that’s what you mean when you said it’s great when played correctly, right?Okay, 1964 Summer Olympics. US, 36 gold, 90 total; USSR, 30 gold, 96 total. I would call that one a tie. The USSR, and now Russia, always do well in track and field (one of my criteria for being able to claim the top of the ranking in the Summer Olympics).I think we’ve already discussed 2008, right?Even though we’re venting here, I admit that Americans and British also share a lot, and not just language. Compared to Germans (I lived in Germany two different times back in the Eighties), the Americans and British share a sense of humor (with the British winning in the savage put-down department). We both find the French contemptible. Compared to the French, we share an indifference to the culinary arts. Compared to the Russians, we are both disinclined to bow down to authoritarian tyrants, whether they call themselves communists or democrats (one can only imagine the abuse Putin would get if the head of Britain or the US). We both believe in democracy, free speech, rule of law, capitalism, and together we have defeated evil bastards on more than one occasion.Also, our rivalries in literature make both of us better. If you can read English, you can read some of the best literature that the world has produced, from Chaucer and Shakespeare, Melville and Twain, and from Virginia Woolf to Hemingway.And popular music, too. Elvis to Stones and Zappa to Syd Barrett. We’re always listening to each other. It’s all good.

Posted by Jeffrey in New York | Report as abusive
 

Hi JeffreyThis is very upsetting: I have to agree with you regarding soccer, literature, music etc.I’m not anti-American (my mother, aunts, uncles and cousins are all from the States!). Most of the anti-US things I said were just stereotypical comments designed to get a reaction. Like any country, there are aspects of the culture I like, and aspects I dislike. I love the Americans’ positive attitude to everything; I just get riled by their “we’re the best” outlook. This said, I hate the Brits’ constant over-politeness resulting in pent up anger which is released at the wrong targets when we’re drunk. Pros and cons in every culture really.Well, it’s been fun; a good debate’s always nice. I’m off to trawl the net for more people to argue with.Take care x

Posted by Jamie | Report as abusive
 

Jamie,Okay, we’re cool. We had some good debates.Best of luck.

Posted by Jeffrey in New York | Report as abusive
 

Good to see the tolerance outbreak!Since posting 19th August, intrigued my first extended forum ‘experience’. Signing off as a Scot, part English, with long spells spent/good friends/ in Jamaica, Australia and US. With tables to prove they all ‘won’!Jeffrey/Jamie – good luck; all yours.

Posted by Neil | Report as abusive
 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
  •