The U.S. has won the total medal count with 37, followed by the Germans with 30 and the Canadians with 26. In terms of gold medals, the Canadians come out on top with 14, followed by the Germans with 10 and the U.S. with 9. Now, many favor the gold medal count as the preferred measure for Olympic success. And, I will not deny that this measure has merit. For instance, it acknowledges that silver and bronze medals are not the same as gold medals. It is not, however, the only one, and my reasons for problematizing it are not, strictly speaking, biased (at least in terms of patriotism). I would like to suggest a few other measures and offer reasons for their value over the "Gold only" measure.
- Total Medals. We should recall that until very recently both summer and winter games were contested in the same calendar year. I would thus argue that for total medals we should combine this year's Winter Olympics with the 2008 Summer Olympics (we could, or course, wait until the 2012 London Summer Games). Doing that we come up with the following totals:
U.S.A.: 45 / 53 / 49 // 147We see that China leads overall in gold medals, but the U.S.A has a clear lead in overall medals. I would also add that no other nation is as balanced in terms of representation in the medals for both the Summer and Winter games. Russia and Germany are close, but nowhere near as dominant in both Olympics.
China: 56 / 23 / 32 // 111
Russia: 26 / 26 / 3 // 87
Germany: 26 / 23 / 22 // 71
South Korea: 19 / 16 / 10 // 45
Canada: 17 / 16 / 11 // 44
- Total Points. Another measure, and one that gives full due to all medal winners, which the "Gold only" argument does not, is to award values to medals and combine those totals (i.e., 3 points for gold, two for silver, and one for bronze). For this year's Winter Olympics it works out this way:
U.S.A.: 68 points
Germany: 63 points
Canada: 58 points
For both the 2008 Summer and 2010 Winter Olympics we have the following totals
U.S.A.: 290 points
China: 246 points
Russia: 165 points
Germany: 146 points
South Korea: 99 points
Canada: 94 points
While, for personal reasons, I might prefer the total medal count translated into points, the larger point is that there are multiple ways of assessing the games. I prefer this last way of accounting because it counts silver and bronze medals without making them equal to gold medals, which addresses one of the reasons I feel the "Gold only" assessment method is preferred. It also highlights consistency and excellence across the entire Olympic spectrum. Clearly, one could use another measure when and where appropriate (e.g. if one wanted to make geographical claims). I make the following range of assessments available to suggest the need for alternatives and to contextualize these now completed 2010 Winter Olympic Games.