Who Lost the Vancouver Olympics?

Posted on March 2, 2010


The Wall Street Journal may not have won any journalism medals for its failure to foretell which financial institutions on its eponymous street would crumble first. But they have spared us the leg work necessary to figure out which countries did the worst at the Olympics.

They have handed out lead, tin, and zinc medals to the competitors who finished last, second-last, and third-last. So which country brought home the most of the dubious medals? Again there’s some dispute about whether we tally up the dubious medals, or award the unofficial title of Biggest Loser to the country that “won” the most lead. On the latter criteria, Italy and Canada tied with six leads each; though Canada, in this way of counting, is a bigger loser because they had five tins to Italy’s two.

The biggest aggregate loser was Russia, bagging a total of 19. (And one of those was probably in men’s hockey!) They were followed closely at the top of the table by Team USA with 17 and the host nation with 14.

The Journal notes that “For some countries—especially those in warmer climates—scoring these dubious medals was still quite a feat. Iran earned two lead medals, thanks to Marjan Kalhor, who finished last in two Alpine-skiing events. And Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, nicknamed the ‘Snow Leopard,’ earned a tin medal in the men’s slalom. Let’s cut him some slack: He’s Ghana’s first-ever Winter Olympian.”

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And over at Evolving Thoughts we have an altogether more interesting, and visually appealing, way of ranking Olympic success. John Wilkins has totted up the medals-per-million-people in each country, combining the last summer and winter games. If we glance at the chart for rankings by gold medals we find Norway, Jamaica, and perennial sporting powerhouse Bahrain at the top; the USA about mid-table; China near the bottom; and India dead last. One commenter on that blog, sticking up for India, bemoans the fact that this way of ranking could not factor in “interest in sports, recognition of the long-term global importance of sports vis-à-vis other concerns (arts, music, eating…).”

(Thanks to Andrew and Samantha for the links.)

Posted in: Olympics, ranking