The Olympics 2004: Who Are the Real Champs?
By Rick Steves
I was traveling through Europe during the Olympic Games and enjoyed watching events from several different countries. Even the non-athletic features were fun, like the video that showed the evolution of Greek sculpture (I understand it was too much stone nudity for American TV, so NBC cut away to scantily-clad dancing girls). Watching the closing ceremonies, I was struck by how my European friends view the "medal count" differently.
All my life I've marveled at how great the American Olympic team did compared to the rest of the world. I imagine the spirits of most Americans, like me, soared to think we come from a land of such impressive athletes. But, one year, as I raved at how dominant our team was, my Dutch friend told me — not too gently — that Americans have a lot of medals…but, per capita, the Dutch have three times as many. While Americans are not inclined to view the tallies this way, before we gloat, consider this listing. Thanks to a nudge by my Dutch friend, I did the arithmetic for the 2004 summer games.
|Medal standings regardless of population:|
|Medal Standings if each country had the same population:|
|(Weighted to match the USA 's 272 million people. Numbers in parentheses are actual number of medals won and that country's population in millions)|
|Medal count||Citizens per medal won|
|8||New Zealand (5/4m)||340||800,000|
Congrats to the Aussies — the true Olympic championship team. Cuba was an impressive second place. (Where would it be if per capita income was a factor?) Norway must do particularly great when the winter games are factored in. The host country Greece has much to be proud of when measured in medals per capita. When compared in a per capita way, the French got three medals for every two the USA won. And, if it's any consolation, China with 63 medals for 1.2 billion people won only 14 medals to the USA 's 103. So America, wave the flag and be proud. We did great. On a per capita basis, our athletes are right up there with the Ukraine and Spain .