The Olympics needs weighted medal counts

by Sonny Bunch on July 30, 2012

I have a number of issues with the Olympics, most of which have to do with the IOC and its penchant for corruption, kowtowing to state sponsors of terrorism, allowing racist displays against Israel, etc. It’s basically the sports version of the UN, which is to say, “terrible.”

That being said, the sporting events themselves are fine and dandy. My issue is with the way in which we decide which nations win the overall medal count: Traditionally, media outlets simply count all medals the same. If your nation has won two bronzes, you’re placed above a nation that has one won gold. This is, in a word, insane. Third place is just second loser. Second place is just first loser. The golds: That’s what nations are striving for. Take a look at the table below (click to embiggen), which I snapped from ESPN this morning:

At the top, everything is fine. But look down a little further: Why on Earth is France behind Japan? France has two golds, a silver, and a bronze; Japan, meanwhile, has two silvers and three bronzes. France has had a better Olympics so far and this should be recognized. Just because Japan has managed to lose slightly less bad than France in one more event, that doesn’t mean they’re having a better Olympics.

What we need is a weighted system that skews heavily toward gold. I’d be in favor of a 4/2/1 system (4 points for a gold, 2 for a silver, 1 for a bronze), but I’d take a 3/2/1 system. Implement the first proposal and Japan plummets down the leaderboard, as their bevy of bronzes receives its proper due (which is to say, not much due at all).

All medals are not created equal. It’s time for the media and the IOC to recognize that fact.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom July 30, 2012 at 9:12 am

By charter the IOC cannot recognize any country ranking by medal count in any format.

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Sonny Bunch July 30, 2012 at 9:15 am

You know, I think I knew that. But the IOC doesn’t get to tell ESPN or SI how to rank the nations. The “official,” IOC-approved medal count should be ignored.

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Jaime August 1, 2012 at 1:26 pm

I like the simple 3 for gold, 2 for silver and 1 for bronze weighted average. It will make China look even better though so they might be using that in China but not in NBCOlympics.

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K. Chung August 5, 2012 at 9:58 am

The simple weighted average rating system seems to be the fair way of ranking the Olympics competition. The IOC may need a help in computing the weighted averages.

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Lawrence Craft August 7, 2012 at 5:57 am

I actually made a chart like this on a lark. I put it online.

http://www.weightedmedalcount.com

It refreshes n’ stuff. It’s not pretty, but you can sort and that.

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