Home > olympics > The Den Mother’s Olympic Recap: Dénouement

The Den Mother’s Olympic Recap: Dénouement

Thursday, March 4, 2010, 12:25 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Every Olympics has its own memorable moments, and Vancouver is no exception. There was drama, conflict, elation, devastation, fun. There were many emotional situations. Speaking strictly of sports, there were also several breakthroughs.

The closing ceremony was light and fun. In a brilliant stroke of self-deprecation that also put the closing parenthesis on the Games, the ceremony began with a worker repairing the fourth tower to the Olympic cauldron, the one that a mechanical malfunction prevented from rising at the opening ceremony. Catriona LeMay Doan reprised her opening ceremony appearance, finally getting to do what the glitch prevented her from doing two weeks ago. The Canadian celebrities who headlined the ceremony were funny and irreverent. Most of all, the ceremony was exactly what it should have been: an end to a remarkable 17 days of sports.

In my (almost) daily recaps, I have written about some of the mosts, firsts, firsts-in-a-long-time, etc. in some of those sports. A few events provided dramatic surprises, a few athletes set records, a few nations rose to new prominence in certain sports. Each fan has his or her favorite stories. I have neither the space nor the time to write about them all. Instead, I’ll write about the tangible measure of Olympic success, the medal count.

The United States led all countries in total medals for only the second time in Winter Olympic history, the first being way back in 1932 when Lake Placid first hosted the Games. If that isn’t impressive enough, Team USA’s 37 medals are a new Winter Olympic record. It’s worth noting that there are multiples more events than there were when the Winter Olympics started 86 years ago, but then again there are also many more countries fielding teams. Without comparing apples to oranges, it is still safe to say that a total of 37 medals is a remarkable achievement.

Canada, the gracious hose, also set a Winter Olympic record. The country that had never won a gold medal either of the previous two times it hosted the Olympics picked up 14 of them in Vancouver, more than any country in the history of the winter Games. Considering that Canada has about one-tenth of the population of the United States, the achievement is even more remarkable.

Way back on day 7, I took a look at how countries were doing in terms of the ratio of medals to population. The U.S. may have won the most medals and Canada the most gold, but Norway won more medals per capita than any other nation. Here are the final calculations, based on population figures obtained from multiple online sources.

Country Medals Population Medals per
10mil people
Norway 23 4,644,457 49.521
Austria 16 8,344,319 19.175
Slovenia 3 2,039,400 14.710
Sweden 11 9,220,986 11.929
Switzerland 9 7,581,520 11.871
Finland 5 5,244,749 9.533
Latvia 2 2,266,013 8.826
Canada 26 33,212,696 7.828
Estonia 1 1,340,638 7.459
Croatia 3 4,491,543 6.679
Czech Republic 6 10,220,911 5.870
Slovakia 3 5,406,030 5.549
Netherlands 8 16,645,313 4.806
Germany 30 82,140,043 3.652
Belarus 3 9,850,000 3.046
South Korea 14 48,607,000 2.880
France 11 62,048,473 1.773
Poland 6 38,122,972 1.574
Australia 3 21,007,310 1.428
United States 37 304,059,724 1.217
Russia 15 141,800,000 1.058
Italy 5 58,145,320 0.860
Kazakhstan 1 15,340,533 0.652
Japan 5 127,704,000 0.392
Great Britain 1 61,399,118 0.163
China 11 1,330,044,544 0.083

Most participating countries won no medals at all. That’s always the case, but it’s always worth mentioning because it is part of what makes the Olympics the greatest collective sporting event. Of 92 countries that sent teams to Vancouver, 65 won not a single medal. The huge majority of athletes participate with no expectation of success, but they come nonetheless. Instead of medals, what they get is the right to forever call themselves Olympians.

Click to view largerSpeaking of medals, the ones handed out in Vancouver were distinctive, to say the least. I liked them, but I suppose not everyone did. That most trusted of news sources, The Onion, did a short article about a couple medalists’ reactions. As always with The Onion, a grain of salt is warranted.

And that concludes my Olympic commentary this time around. I’ll be back at it in 2012, when I hope to be blogging from London rather than my living room. We now return you to your regularly scheduled Musings from the Den Mother.

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