Does this table look familiar?
Yes, that’s right, it a list of countries by GDP. And it’s very similar to the Olympics medal table, ordered by number of medals (which is a better indication of Olympic prowess than just using golds, given the fine margins between winning and coming second. Sorry, team GB, fourth it is):
So winning Olympic medals is really all about money. In effect, countries deploy their resources to buy medals. That said, there are some notable anomalies in the table. Some countries overperform because they spend disproportionately on Olympic sports. The ex-communist countries and Australia stick out (despite the latter being widely reported as having had a bad games!).
Others, such as Brazil and India (37th in the medals table with just 2 silvers and 4 bronzes!) underperform, perhaps because these countries focus on sports that yield few or no medals (football, cricket).
Or perhaps because they’re just a bit more sensible when it comes to the Olympics.
For of course all this money being spent in the pursuit of Olympic medals is forcibly taken from the taxpayer. Few of the Olympic sports attract sufficient public interest to be self-financing. In other words the government takes from the poor to pay middle class athletes to win medals in sports that nobody normally watches.
So when you hear all those politicians and ex-Olympians jumping on the bandwagon saying ‘legacy-blah-blah-keep-investing-learn-from-Australia…’ say “Woah! Stop! Where does the money come from? Why? Why Australia? Why not India? If you wanna watch hop, skip and jump, pay for it yourself!”