Meddling with the Medal Count

Every time I check Canada’s Olympic medal count, I feel a little more inept at math. And that’s quite the feat, considering I was forced had to endure summer school for high school math not once, but twice.

As of 11:30 MST on August 4, CTV’s Olympic app listed Canada at 11th place in the overall medal standings. That’s a damn fine showing for us at the Summer Games considering our seasons consist of almost winter, winter, spring(ish), and road construction. Plus, we just earned our first gold in women’s trampoline so suck on that USA! (that comment isn’t really relevant here, but you have to give your country props when you can)

But all that joy is diminished if you check out Canada’s medal count via Google. In a cruel twist of unfortunate math, we somehow slip 10 spots in the standings and settle way down low at 21st place. Cue the sad violin music.

So what’s going on here? Is Canada relatively low in the overall ranking, are we doing fairly well, or is the Olympic medal count ridiculously arbitrary because there isn’t global agreement on the best measure?

As it turns out, all three of those options may be true. Here’s why.

London 2012 Olympic medals made by The Royal M...

In Ancient Greece (and for the first four modern Olympic Games), only athletes who won a given event received recognition. As cruel as that may seem, that’s the way wins are counted in nearly every other competition. For instance, do you know what team lost to the Flames during the Stanley Cup playoffs in 1989? Unless you’re a Canadiens or Flames fan, the answer is likely no.

Even though the “winner takes all” approach is acceptable in most instances, it doesn’t seem appropriate for the Olympic Games. I am of the opinion that if you can get yourself on to an Olympic podium, you most definitely deserve to be counted. For the sake of Canada’s overall standing, I’d be thrilled if medals were given out for 4th and 5th place…but we have to draw the line somewhere 😉

Some nations believe the total number of medals earned at an Olympic Games is the most important metric. When it comes to a country like the United States, that’s a fairly convenient measure to endorse.  Whether or not that measurement is objectively accurate isn’t really up for debate in the States, considering it nearly always results in Team USA appearing to be more victorious in comparison to their closest rivals.

Given all the options, I think the most appropriate way to determine Olympic medal standings would be to follow a weighted system that assigns a numerical value to each medal. While the actual numbers are irrelevant, it would be easiest to make gold medals worth 3 points, silver worth 2, and bronze worth 1 point.

That makes logical sense, right? I mean, we all know that a gold medal is worth more than a bronze medal both from a national bragging-rights standpoint and in terms of the endorsements an athlete can earn based on their performance(s). And, as an added bonus, it would ensure Olympic lovers like yours truly wouldn’t have to undergo the unnecessary pain of revisiting high school math to determine how their country ranks in the global standings.

2 thoughts on “Meddling with the Medal Count

  1. Very interesting! I agree with you about the weighted counting. But either way, it doesn’t make much difference for Belgium (one bronze, one silver so far). We usually don’t get so many medals in the Olympics so cheering for Belgium can be a bit disheartening. Therefore I have decided that for these games I am entitled to identify with Japan and feel proud about their (considerably higher) medal count. 🙂 Go Japan!

    • Good choice for an adopted team! I think you’re sitting at 5th right now, so go Japan indeed!

      My Irish husband has reluctantly been cheering for Canada because Ireland has yet to win a medal. But as soon as boxer Katie Taylor competes, I’m sure he’ll ditch us pretty quickly 😉

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