Pitara Kids Network

The Olympic Gold Rush

September 30: At the Millennium Olympics in Sydney, Barbados, the tiny island nation in the Caribbean, has overtaken the United States and China to head the medals tally – if you calculate the number of medals against the population.

When sprinter Obadele Thompson won the bronze in the 100-metre race in 10.04 seconds, on September 23, Barbados topped the medal table list maintained by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). This is because Barbados has a population of only 270,000. This report featured in ‘The Hindustan Times’.

The Olympic Gold Rush [Illustration by Shiju George]
After the fall of the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the United States of America (USA) and China have been topping the medals tally.

However, people missed the wood for the trees. “There are other forms of analysis that can be done to look at what lies behind all those medals. The more people you’ve got, the greater number of people you’re going to get with some kind of athletic ability,” says Martin Butterfield, who works with ABS.

Countries with lesser population lack enough people with the ability to compete internationally.

True. That’s why the ABS decided to rank medal-winning countries according to the population of a country. And guess where the US, the top medal-winning nation for the last 20 years, features? Rank 43!

With a population of 280 million the US is way beyond the halfway mark. Though in the normal tally of how many medals each country won it ranks number one with 75.

China (currently number two with 56 medals), with a population of 1.26 billion, ranks 65 out of 75 countries featured in the list.

However, Butterfield’s theory of more people producing better quality sportspersons somehow seems to have failed in the case of India at least. India, with a population of 1.01 billion, and one bronze medal, ranks last!

The silver lining with India’s medal was that it did create Indian Olympic history. Karnam Malleshwari won a bronze in weightlifting. This was the first medal won by an Indian woman at the Olympics in any discipline!