Beijing 2008 is over and what a Games it was eh? Spectacular ceremonies and a parade of impressive record breaking sport performances. For Oceania, as expected it was a tough assignment and the medals did not come easily.
At the Athens Games in 2004, with around 301 Gold medals up for grabs, only 57 countries out of 202 were able to win a Gold Medal. In fact only 74 countries could win any medal, less than half of the competing nations.
In Beijing, there were 302 Gold Medal events and 205 competing nations. This time only 57 Countries were able to win a gold with one country, Panama making it onto the Gold Medal winning list for the first time. 85 countries were able to grab a medal though, so while it seems that the rich are getting richer, the poor are starting to make headway.
From Oceania, our neighbours and friends from
Australia finished 4th overall in Athens with 17 Gold, 16 silver and 16 bronze
medals, an outstanding achievement. This time around the Aussies dropped to 6th place with 14 gold, 15 silver and 17 bronze medals. A par performance one might say except that this time, the British finished ahead of Australia in 4th spot with 19 gold 13 silver and 15 bronze, perhaps a result of greater emphasis on sport as a result of winning the hosting rights for the 2012 Games. Also with the emergence of the rampant Chinese Dragon, Australia was bumped out of the top ten medal winning nations of all time, behind Sweden and ahead of another bolter in Russia.
New Zealand secured 3 gold 1 silver and 4 bronze to hold down 24th spot on the medal table in Athens. This time around they matched their 3 gold to hold on to 26th place in Beijing and 30th place over the entire history of the Games.
Once again there were no medals for the Pacific Nations, but there were some firsts.
- Marshall Islands and Tuvalu attended their first ever Games.
- Ryan Pini (PNG) made the final of the 100m Butterfly to win an Olympic Diploma and be the first swimmer from the Pacific to make an Olympic swimming final.
- Dika Toua (PNG) finished 8th in her weightlifting division to win her second Olympic Diploma.
- Ele Opelonge (SAM) went oh so close to a medal in finishing 4th in here weight division to also secure her first Olympic Diploma.
- We had more Pacific Athletes overall and more who met official qualifying standards at these Games than at any previous Games, so something must be going right, but the mountain still needs to be climbed and it appears to be getting bigger every time around.
In Athens, half of the Gold medals were secured by
just 7 nations or about 3.4% of the competing nations while half of the
overall medals won were secured by just 8 nations. In Beijing, half of the Gold medals were secured by 6 countries or 2.9% of the competing nations, the top 6 winning 52.6% of the available gold medals. The top eight countries won half of the overall medals available once again.
It is real tough at the top that's for sure.
On the All Time medal table Australia holds 11th place with 131 Gold, 137 Silver and 164 Bronze. The Aussies are still punching above their weight in world sport.
New Zealand Hold down 30th place with 36 gold, 15 silver and 35 bronze.
Tonga are at 133 with their bronze from the 1996 Games.
China moved up from 12th - 7th place on the all time list. Jamaica won 6 gold medals this time to move up 7 places to 41 on the all time list.
95 countries have won a gold medal at the Olympic Games which means 120 have not achieved this. (note their are 216 countries listed, 11 of which are no longer competing e.g. West Germany, East Germany, Soviet Union)
146 countries have won a medal which 70Countries are yet to win a medal.
The USA has won 926 Gold medals or 20.6% of all gold medals ever won. No wonder the Stars and Stripes are such a recognisable symbol world wide. They have won 2,286 (16.7%) medals overall.
7 Countries have won half of all the gold medals ever awarded. The Soviet Union remains in second place even though they haven't competed as a team since the Seoul Games.
The top 10 Medal winning nations up to and including Beijing are:
However if we add together all the medals won by the former Soviet Union and the Germaineis the list would look like this.
In this scenario, the Aussies would make the all time top ten list, however we would now see that only 5 countries have won half of the available gold medals and 6 countries would have won half of all the medals ever awarded.
If that is not enough for you 9 of the top ten countries on the all time medal winning list have hosted the Olympic Games. In fact 15 of the top 20 nations have hosted the Games with Hungary the highest ranking nation not to have hosted a Games, followed by Romania, both former Eastern Bloc nations. The lowest ranking host nation is Mexico at 42 followed by Greece at 32 and Spain at 31.
It is all food for thought but no matter which way you look at it, unless you belong to a country that has a well organised and systematic sport program, or your athletes have open access to an organised and systematic sports system, medals at Olympic level are really hard to come by. When we look at the history of the Games and the medal winning performances at the Olympic Games, it puts into perspective what a spectacular performance that Australia and New Zealand regularly put up at these Games.
It also reminds us just how amazing was the silver medal of Tonga's Paea Wolfgramm in 1996 and the Diploma performances of Ryan Pini and Dika Toua of PNG and Ele Opeloge of Samoa.
I for one though think we can do much better.
Every Country knows that in four years time they will at least have a male and female 100m sprinter at the Games. I would like to think that we can do better than that and qualify athletes in their own right. But if not, let us at least get sprinters who can do better than 7th and 8th place in heats and demonstrate some of the exceptional talent that we have to show.
But let us not kid ourselves any longer. No more excuses about lack of
population size. If population was such a big deal, India would be a
top three medal winning nation. OK so money is a problem? Well if money
was the answer why aren't Brunei, Saudi Arabia and Dubai up there on
the medal winning lists? Ahh but we lack expertise do we? Well if
expertise was all that mattered, Canada, who lead the world in coach
education would be the world power in sport.
New Zealand benefited from Pacific Power through Valerie Vili (Tongan heritage). It is time more Pacific Nations gave some serious thought to London and beyond and do the time. We have the talent and we have the time. Let's not waste it.....