Russia and the U.S., as expected, won the most medals, but [yawn] so what? These are two of the most populous countries on the planet. Of course they win most of the medals. Does that mean that somehow their citizens are better people than those in the rest of the countries?
Instead, let’s put things in perspective. Let’s look at the medal counts based on population, on a per capita basis.
Of the 26 countries that won medals, Norway, like its Strawberry Girls, finishes so far ahead the rest of the field hasn’t entered the stadium—a country with a total population less than that of New York City. Russia barely makes the top 15, while the U.S. can’t even crack the top 20. And the most populous nation on Earth? Dead last. That’s right, China is so far back that we should invoke the mercy rule.
The only surprises for me are The Netherlands and Canada. I thought they would have finished higher on the per capita basis. (I underestimated their populations.) But tiny Slovenia comes in second, followed by Austria, Latvia and Sweden. The Dutch and Canucks end up 6th and 10th, respectively, with Switzerland, Finland and the Czech Republic sandwiched in between.
Heaven help the rest of the world if the Norwegians get serious about speed skating. Or Lillehammer becomes a refuge for disenfranchised athletes from other countries. (Seven of Russia’s medals were won by expats: Korean short-track skater Victor An, three golds and a bronze; American snowboarder Vic Wild, two golds; and Ukrainian short-track skater Vladimir Grigorev, one silver.)
But don’t get me wrong. I applaud all of the individual athletes, regardless of their country of origin. Just getting to the Olympics is a remarkable achievement in itself. Winning a medal deserves high praise for the hard work and dedication required. I would like to see the emphasis on that and less focus on the medal totals—unless those totals are put in perspective.
Here’s how the Sochi medal winners rank on a per capita basis: