Olympic medals, GDP and population: the Rio learning curve

This Olympics has again brought an interesting analysis – the proportion between a country’s medals and its population. We all know that some countries like Jamaica gives special importance to sports in their national policies.

This time an Independent Olympic Athletes – a team that doesn’t represent any country, comprising of refugees and Kuwaiti sportspersons have won a gold and a bronze.

World is now discussing why some small countries are able to make big achievements whereas others especially India – the world’s second largest populated country is not able to deliver.

Medalspercapita.com has prepared a medal per population analytics for the Rio games. The list gives data about the number of people per medal. It is estimated by dividing the entire population of the country by number of medals (gold, silver and bronze) it got. The list contains 80 countries that got at least one medal at the ongoing games so far.

As per the list, Grenada, a small island country in the Caribbean, tops the list as it has got one medal whereas its population is just over one lakh.

Of the twenty-five highest achievers, (lowest population per medal) at Rio, Great Britain is a smart performer with 60 medals so far even though in terms of population per medal it is placed at 18th position.

Asian biggie, China is at the bottom part, placed at 71st position (out of 80) and it has one medal for each 23641724 people. India is placed at 80th, and for India, there is one medal for tis 655525263 people (Total population 1311050527).

What determines medals?

An economist- Dr Julia Bredtmann with Leibniz institute, Germany, has predicted a medals tally at Rio if medals are based on population and GDP of countries. As per her funny economic-demography weighted analysis, China and the US should come with 25 medals each the top. India should come at third with 22 medals followed by Germany and Japan.

But actually, GDP and demography will produce medals only if other vital factors accompany them. In this context, there are many observations about the number of medals and the propelling facto for it. One such analysis was made by the BBC about Britain’s in the context of its Rio Olympics achievements. Britain has made big strides in medals achievement at Rio.

BBC reported that Britain which has got just one gold and was in the 36 position at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, invested heavily in sports and its spending is nearly $ 274 million for Rio up from just 13 mn in 1996. Britain is currently placed at second position with 60 medals including 24 gold at Rio.

This gives a powerful message for least performing countries like India, that medals would not come automatically. It need investment as proved by Britain and consistently shown by China. Without sports infrastructure and incentives, we can’t blame our athletes for their poor performance. Large number of Indian sportspersons see the Olympic venue with stage fears and tension only because of inexperience.

More than that, you should encourage sports events that the people of other countries also play. Mega sports items like cricket has only entertainment value and it doesn’t qualify as sports unless practiced by large number of countries.

The world is now talking about India as a case study for wrong attention to sports and designs policies to avoid being in India like situations. Is the Indian authorities listening? Of course, the most powerful people to influence India’s sports performance is not our sports persons; rather it is political leaders who are sitting at the top of large number of sports bodies. The Suresh Kalmadees and Cement Sreenivasans should not make one more avatar to tarnish our sports future. Otherwise, we should continue to put too much pressure and tension on hard working sportspersons like Sindhu and Sakshi.

The life and momentum provided by couple of women athletes in this Olympics is to be boosted; and for it, the energy should be provided at the political level. If India like to raise its head as a rising country- economically and politically, sports should also able to reflect it.