I don’t understand the endless obsession of Olympic commentators and event organizers with the countries competitors come from: parading in national costumes at the opening, keeping score by country on the front web page of the NY Times, Canadian whining about not winning enough medals, event winners swanning around waving their flags. It’s pointlessly nationalistic, but it’s also stupid: counting, much less comparing or “scoring” Olympic medal numbers per country, is like obsessing over a one-heat race among cheetahs, walruses, hares, tortoises, and trees.
Here are the numbers of medals per million population of the top eight medal winners so far:Given that Canada has a little more than a tenth the population of the US, they’re “beating” us three to one by any reasonable measure; given that Americans mostly live where it’s much less wintry than any of Canada, so what? Given that Austria and Norway are rich, mountainous, and cold, why wouldn’t they rack up lots of wins at a winter sports party? Enough already; lets let the kids compete and have fun, and not coopt them as cannon fodder in a silly and jingoistic PR battle.