Well, it had to be brought up eventually and after reading this post, I felt obliged to write my thoughts on one of the stupidest aspects of the Olympics: the medal count. If you’ve been watching over here in China you are reminded of it by CCTV at pretty much every commercial break, probably very similar to what my family is seeing on NBC back home. The only difference being that the numbers are naturally interpreted differently depending on which side of the Pacific you are watching from.
In the post linked above, the charge is that the U.S. is “cooking the books” to make it look like they are ahead. Unlike the Chinese method which says that a country with 1 gold medal should be ranked above a country wth 2, 3, or even 100 silver medals, the U.S. system puts equal value on all medals and just does a simple tally of the total. To my knowledge, this U.S. way of counting medals is nothing new despite the post’s claims that the Americans have “invented” a new way of counting in order to keep the lead. (Have the Chinese used the method described above in past Olympics as well? Any other methods out there?)
Obviously, both methods have their flaws. The U.S. system probably unfairly removes the “worth” of a gold versus a silver versus a bronze medal (the medal that make orphans cry), while the logic of the Chinese system seems to break down when you can have countries with multiple athletes receiving silver and bronze awards ranked below those that only have a single gold medal winner. (More of a “Gold Medal Count” than a “Medal Count” in my opinion, but to each his own…)
Personally, I wish the IOC could just ban broadcasts of the medal tallies and let the crazy nationalists of the world who HAVE to know which country is the “best” tally things at home, either that or have an official IOC-sanctioned tally that takes the question of “how to count medals” off the table. On the other extreme, you could ban national symbols of any kind be used during the Olympics with the focus on individual rather than national performances, but I guess that would be against what the event is about, if not a little more gentle on the international community’s increasingly fragile nerves…
It seems Beijing is taking a cue from Boston’s strategy of using “Free Speech Zones” to “quarantine” protestors during the Republican National Convention in 2004.
Well, this is better than nothing at all, and hopefully it will help ensure the safety of those who would like to express their opinions publicly in Beijing. (Either that, or make protesters an easier target for water cannons/rubber bullets/tear gas or whatever else Beijing has up its sleeve to prevent the airing of controversial views during the games.)
Andy R [A new guest blogger – entries from others are welcome as I go into 6 weeks of hibernation]
With the Olympics (finally) just around the corner I thought it might be interesting (and perhaps a welcome break) to hear what everybody is looking forward to in the upcoming games. I’m more of a winter games guy myself having become quite a fan of sitting back with a few beers and trying to figure out the rules of curling by observation (using Wikipedia would take all the fun out of it). That being said, I would have to say that watching Michael Phelps try to tie/break Mark Spitz’s record, and the “Redeem team” try to win back American bragging rights in hoops are top draws on my list for Beijing. The (potential) showdown between Liu Xiang and Dayron Robles (Cuba) will probably be classic as well. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to NBC over here, but it would be extremely interesting to watch CCTV and NBC coverage side by side. I guess I’ll have to wait for the inevitable flood of academic papers on the subject. How about everybody else? What are you most excited to see in August, sports-related or otherwise?
Note: This being my first post, I’d like to introduce myself. Out of love for the Duck, I’ve offered to help out Richard during his upcoming hiatus. I’m originally from Ohio and currently live in Hangzhou with my wife where I represent an US-based company. I graduated in 2007 with an MA in East Asian Studies from Duke University (and I’m well aware of all the controversy my alma mater seems to stir up-Lacrosse scandal, Grace Wang, and the general hatred of Duke basketball, so if you have to, please get it out of your system as quickly as possible). Anyway, along with all the other great contributors here, I’ll try my best to keep things interesting for you folks while Richard is MIA.