Changing China

Giant on the move

China assured of first place in medals table

August 23, 2008

Zhang YiningThere’s been a lively discussion, here and elsewhere, about which version of the medals table is a better way of ranking countries’ achievements at the Olympics.

Reuters goes with the “gold standard”, if you like, which has put China out in front almost from the start. Other, mainly American outlets go with the “total number of medals” tally that puts the U.S. on top.

It’s been interesting to hear so many different points of view, and suggestions for different, weighted systems of formatting the table (see the original piece here).

A lot of people like the idea of different points for gold, silver and bronze, while I’ve enjoyed the notion of combining that weighting system with a per capita bias. That was suggested to me by Greg Stutchbury, a colleague from New Zealand, and it worked out that top of the medals table would be New Zealand. Strange, that.

Still, we’re sticking with the gold standard and on that basis I can tell you that China are now assured of first place. Greg has done the maths and as of this morning the U.S. can no longer catch the hosts. There are still enough medals up for grabs, but the U.S. are not in contention in enough of the events to make up the ground (see the table to the right of this page for the up-to-date tally).

So congratulations China. It is a mighty achievement, given that they did not win a single Olympic gold medal until 1984. It just shows what a massive population and absolute dedication to a goal can achieve.

PHOTO: Zhang Yining of China kisses her gold medal after defeating compatriot Wang Nan in the women’s singles table tennis final at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 22, 2008. REUTERS/Joe Chan


China didn’t win a single medal until 1984 b/c that’s the first Olympics China attended. China won 15 gold and made 4th rank though USSR boycotted.

Posted by Hui | Report as abusive

They better take home the gold if they’ve spent nearly 7 times as much as the US on their athletes. Gotta make the ROI worth it!

Posted by Jack | Report as abusive

Well the ROI is infinite as the investment is paid by Uncle Sam, who has barely enough money in its Indymac Bank account to print more money and order a new checkbook.

Posted by Ian Summers | Report as abusive

Chinese winners deserve the glory of victory.
Good luck to all the athletes.
Good luck to Beijing.

Posted by Chris | Report as abusive

There is no honor in winning when you cheat. It is so obvious that three of their gymnasts are under age. What a shame for the host country to set that kind of example. And imagine how the girls feel who were coerced into perpetrating this fraud. And the feelings of those poor girls of legitimate age who were cheated out of participating after all the hard work they put in for this once in a lifetime event, to represent their country at the first Olympic to be held in their own country. Shame, shame, shame on those heartless people who perpetrated this deceit.

Posted by Robert | Report as abusive

Let’s see how the US does in 2012, after we have a chance to recover from the worst economy in over 70 years.

Posted by Robert | Report as abusive

The US will probably never top the table again – as they have for decades. This affects national pride. Like seeing the 747 replaced as the biggest airliner – it stirred odd reaction seeing the rest of the world catch up for the first time, and then pass the US. This is the reality of the future.

Posted by Al | Report as abusive


Posted by Trojan | Report as abusive

During the Korean War of 50/53 I well remember a Chinese soldier saying to me that the war was of no consequence and that by the end of the century China will be the world’s No 1 power, the US and Europe are now “also ran’s”, how right he was, think on it !!.

Posted by Frank Fallows | Report as abusive

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