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China v USA Olympic medals contest to go to the wire

David Bond | 20:02 UK time, Thursday, 9 August 2012

Amid all the talk of Great Britain's gold rush, it's been easy to overlook the fierce battle going on at the top of the Olympic medals table.
The United States and China are locked in a struggle for sporting supremacy and with only three days of competition left it's set to go to the wire.

Four years ago in Beijing the world's most populous nation finished first for the first time in history with 51 golds, the US some way behind with 36. Americans hoped this might be a one-off inspired by the Chinese playing host to the Games.

Four years on in London it's clear that hope was in vain. Unlike the rest of the world (and crucially the International Olympic Committee), the US counts overall medals and not golds as the true measure of sporting success. The problem for America is that China are even closing in on that too.

China Table Tennis men's team (left) and members of the USA basketball team (right)

China won all the table tennis Olympic gold medals available in London whilst the USA latest 'dream team' are also going for gold. Photo: Getty

So how have they done it?

There are sports such as table tennis, diving, badminton and gymnastics in which China have always enjoyed success.

But over the last decade and in the run-up to the Beijing Games the country's sports authorities targeted less popular disciplines contested by fewer countries (sound familiar Great Britain?).

Women's weightlifting is a good example of this. Now the aim is to win in the most competitive pursuits - swimming and athletics. Even rowing is on the radar.

What is all the more extraordinary about the contest between China and the US is that it is still relatively young. China didn't compete in the summer Games for three decades following a dispute with the IOC over the political status of Taiwan.

The team only returned in 1984 and in the space of seven Games they have gone from also-rans to the most powerful sporting force on the planet.

China's vast population obviously helps provide a rich seam of talent. But there's more to it than that.

Critics say the uncompromising training regime for young Olympic athletes is too tough. Others, such as the American swimming coach, John Leonard have gone even further, questioning whether emerging new talents such as the double gold medallist Ye Shiwen are too good to be true.

That sniping is as much a reflection of China's past doping scandals as it is a sign of how threatened the US may feel from China's growing sporting presence. It should be stated of course that there is absolutely no evidence to suggest Shiwen has done anything wrong other than swim incredibly fast at a young age.

When another teenager, America's Katie Ledecky beat Rebecca Adlington comfortably in the 800m freestyle there was no nudging and winking in Olympic circles. It was celebrated for what it was - a remarkable performance on the toughest stage of all.

It's in the pool that the United States has enjoyed its biggest successes here.

Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin spearheaded America's dominance as they won an incredible 16 of the 33 golds available. They head the table so far in athletics while the latest incarnation of basketball's dream team are on course to win their 14th Olympic title.

Following their quarter-final victory over Australia on Wednesday night Kobe Bryant, the highest paid player in the NBA, said that finishing top of the medals table at the Olympics was a great source of pride for the country.

He added: "They (China) do well every Olympics and we are just trying to do the best we can to hit the top spot. You take a sense of pride in it. It feels good to feel like your country is well represented and your country has top spot."

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States might have expected to occupy the top spot for decades to come. China's rise means they can no longer take that for granted.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Interesting that the 2 paragraphs below the photos are duplicates of ones above it. Wakey, wakey Auntie Beeb.

  • Comment number 2.

    The message is clear and simple, invest, invest and you will reap the rewards. That is all that has happened with China.

    We saw it with the Eastern Block countries, way back, although some of their methods were questionable, China are basically no different to what their point of view was, regarding sport.

    Maybe what we should be looking at is the decline of Russia, Germany and a few others.

    But amongst the big boys we have some emerging nations, winning medals where there was no realistic expectation in the past, that has to be good for the games.

    Strangely from my time in the states there are very few sports that really interest them [TV wise] apart from the usual, track and field, gymnastics, basketball etc.

  • Comment number 3.

    American Sport Clubs are worth millions of dollars and even an American High School as enough money to have sports lessons.

    China GDP per Capita is 20% that of the US.

    Shame on US

  • Comment number 4.

    Actually the story makes an incorrect statement when it asserts the IOC counts medals one way or the other. The IOC is specifically PROHIBITED from issuing a medal count by country under the terms of the Olympic Charter. The media office issues advisories, but these are done in both formats for the media of the world. If you look at the counts in Vancouver it was done in the North American standard of 'Total Medals' and even in London if you look at the Medal page of the Olympic 2012 website you'll see the option to sort the medal table by either format. In fact, IOC President Jacque Rogge said in Beijing that the IOC had no position on which table format is better.

  • Comment number 5.

    Much prefer that these two Superpowers trade sporting rivalries than missiles.China is flexing its considerable muscle in the world as the new dominant Superpower and the Olympics are an extention of that energy.Happy with that as long as the Olympic spirit persists - athelete against athelete- rather than country against country.

  • Comment number 6.

    It doesn't take much effort to check the spelling of a name. A quality journalist would/should do this. Before accusing the US of being obsessed with quantity over quality and implying there was something more sinister to expressions of surprise over Ye Schiwen's phenomal finishing time, perhaps you would do us the courtesy of spelling Katie Ledecky's name correctly? Even NBC journos check people's names (on Wikipedia).

  • Comment number 7.

    It's a pity that we value our silver and bronze medalists so lightly. They have achieved great things. I presume it's to stay above Russia in the medal table. What a shame.

    At least the US counts all its athletes equally.

  • Comment number 8.

    Forget Ye Shiwen's performance, surely the irony of Jim's (#6) misspelling of her name is too good to be true.

    And Boris, gold medals are different from silver and bronze medals. They represent Olympic champions, unbeaten, the finest athletes in their respective fields. It's not about devaluing silver and bronze, it's about reflecting the uniquely prized status of the gold medal.

  • Comment number 9.

    Of course, even if you just take GB, Germany and France as three of the European heavyweights, their medal tally of 45 Gold, 38 Silver and 37 Bronze would put them straight to the top. Team EU anyone?

  • Comment number 10.

    You totally forgot to consider the (unrighteous) fact that a judo gold (won by an individual) has the same value on that metal table as the football gold (won by a team) and hence a lot more difficult to get. For that reason, the Chinese concentrate more on individual golds, simply to be at the top of your medal table. Has a Chinese team ever won a real team sport (volleyball, handball, football, hockey, etc) at the Olympics? None! Because it's far more difficult to win in a team sport, football gold for example should count as 11 golds on your metal table. But let's say you would rather refrain from going down that road, what about using a point system to every medal won in order to determine the overall winner?

  • Comment number 11.

    How can you mention the Chinese doping scandals without mentioning the US ones? Gives a false impression that only one of the countries has had athletes that cheated in the past.

  • Comment number 12.

    There is another side to this: the idea of which country shows the greatest amount of "Olympic spirit". I know this can be difficult to assess, because it is more complicated than a simple-minded objective count of medals (but, as we see above about counting and scoring rules for gold, silver, and bronze medals, even this is not as clear-cut as people might assume). Nevertheless, we should try to see if we can assess the general overall adherence to the Olympic ideals, as first described by the founder of modern Olympics, that each country might have. If we did that, I imagine that the overall order or ranking might differ in some quite startling ways from the simple-minded medal-counting rankings that have been discussed here.

  • Comment number 13.

    To JimSmithREAL:

    America doesn't have sports clubs. They have franchises (businesses) and the only franchises that contribute participants to the Olympics are basketball and soccer (although I'm being generous to include soccer - the American public is not mesmerized by soccer and struggle to keep it going). All other US participants are, like other countries, just amateurs. There are no professional swimming, athletic, table tennis (?), etc. franchises.

    And, no, US high schools are not overrun with money for their sports programs. They pay for pools, athletic grounds and sporting equipment with money contributed in fund raising projects organized by the parents of the kids, something the parents in any country could do, if they would. American athletics, high school and up, are not funded predominantly by government money.

    Once out of high school, US athletes work through collegiate (university level) sports programs while doing a full course of academic studies. If they fail academically they are disqualified. No more training. US sports authorities believe that character - which is stimulated as much by mental exercise as physical - is as important as natural physical ability.

    Instead of assuming athletes are dimwitted they are all required to finish a bachelor's degree if they wish to advance. There are very few exceptions. Which means, of course, that US athletes know that a Shiite is not something you find in a loo. Many US athletes don't make it to the Bigs cause they can't cut the mustard.

    To vossinlondon:

    The EU medal count would be very different if GB, Germany and France didn't regularly recruit talent from other countries to represent them in international sporting events (The list of African names alone is astounding). To their credit the US routinely gives scholarships (bursaries) to young people from other countries, educates them academically, trains them athletically and then sends them back to represent their mother country in international events. A large number of medalists were trained in the US university system. How different would the medal count be if the US also routinely absorbed this talent.

  • Comment number 14.

    To RoyaltyInThePremiership:

    Most countries monitor the athletes to eliminate doping. Can you say that for China?

  • Comment number 15.

    Don't disregard China on team sports because one day they'll win something at the Olympics along with at least a medal in every category. If we want to keep up, we need to put more money and effort into it.

  • Comment number 16.

    Boris the Spider: Typically childish comment from a PC fool – there must surely be something cynical in the way “we” do things.

    Here’s the news – everyone except the USA (and only then when it’s convenient) ranks by gold. And there are good reasons. Why would a bronze rank as much as a gold? By what logic? Why are the first three places counted? Why not the first four, five or two? By what logic is it three? That’s why only gold really matters, because coming first is the only definite.

    But carry on pretending it’s an evil British conspiracy if it gives you PC brownie points for your next dinner party.

  • Comment number 17.

    When another teenager, America's Katie Ledecky beat Rebecca Adlington comfortably in the 800m freestyle there was no nudging and winking in Olympic circles. It was celebrated for what it was - a remarkable performance on the toughest stage of all
    ===============

    The Olympic spirit is getting dirty. Along with the above, I have noticed a great disparity not just (understandably) between American fans' recognition of Chinese wins, but also WESTERN (i.e. people in European and US/Canada countries) when playing Chinese or East asian players. For a recent example, see the boxing and taekwondo finals, where it pitted a Brit vs a Chinese. On both occasions, a Brit won. Now look at other head to heads where the Chinese won - Diving, Archery, Badminton.... on those head to heads - even in the case of a Chinese vs an IRISH (and this extends to Pole, German... you get the idea).... the home crowd are cheering on the western player(s) more than the Chinese, and if the Chinese wins - the westerner still gets cheered more!!!! Compare and contrast this with Beijing 2008 - the home Chinese crowd cheered their home players, sure, but when others won - they rightly got the most praise.

    This only extends to East Asians too. When on a head to head with a non western, non east asian nation, I;ve noticed there is no such rivalry to speak of - they are competing for a medal/gold, but it's as if there is some sort of extra joy in defeating an east asian

    The press (especially the BBC!) has also been guilty in this regard - with articles such as "China's obsession with gold", "is China's dominance of table tennis over".... Jonathan Overend, BBC Sport's taekwondo commentator said

    ""In this sport, which is an Asian sport, an Asian martial art, a teenage athlete from Great Britain has just beaten two Asian champions back-to-back to win Olympic gold. I don't think Olympic stories come much better than this one."
    ==============

    I wonder if Chinese media said the same of swimming, archery, rowing (China taking the gold from GB in 2008). Why are westerners setting up a "us" vs "them" rivalry (us being the entire western hemisphere, not just USA)?

    Even when the Guardian writes an article on anti Chinese bias, they don't seem to realise their bias themselves....

    "However, Leach and her daughter and son-in-law, Cassie and Benjamin Schifano, were willing to concede reservations about the occasionally regimented system which produces the never-ending stream of Chinese medallists."

    .....and I guess the American system doesn't produce a "never ending stream of American medalists"????

    All throughout, there is the underlying mindset that the Chinese do not deserve medals, do not deserve to be on or near the top, whilst the Americans are taken for granted. I wonder when media and social bias will change, if ever. I wonder when they will notice they are biased.

  • Comment number 18.

    14.
    At 08:59 10th Aug 2012, EnnisP wrote:


    Most countries monitor the athletes to eliminate doping. Can you say that for China?

    =========

    Yet the US did a sterling job (same with UK) keeping out dopers in recent years, eh?

  • Comment number 19.

    If you're a country that's good at swimming, you have over 30 gold medals to compete for.

    If you're a country that's good at volleyball you have two.

    If you're a country that's good at cricket, you have none.

    So adding up the total golds across all sports is fairly meaningless. The medal table is pretty arbitrary, and only really useful for winding up the Aussies when they finish below us.

  • Comment number 20.

    To PiggyBack (No. 18):

    Same question. Can you say that for China? Did they make the effort?

    That isn't to say they have intentionally doped, although we have no way of ruling that out, but how much monitoring is done?

    Remember, we are comparing democratic states to one that is totalitarian. Western competitors participate primarily for the love of the sport. No coercion. If they fail to train the only penalty is disappointment with self. There is no lashback from the state. Can you say that for the Chinese?

  • Comment number 21.

    @14. US monitoring of their athletes didn't stop Marion Jones et al from cheating, and there are numerous cases in the past where US athletes such as Carl Lewis have failed tests but have been covered up or excused. Florence Griffiths Joyner times have never been neared even 20 years later and that includes runners like Jones that were performance enhanced but she never failed a drugs test. Do you think she was clean because she was American or is it just Chinese swimmers that set world records that you think are suspicious?

  • Comment number 22.

    @21

    The fact that US, or any other Western competitors are "found out" speaks volumes for, not against the monitoring system. Do any of the Chinese fail tests? Maybe they cheat but are assisted by government efforts to keep it covered up. As far as I know Western countries (GB, US, Germany, etc.) at least try to stop the doping and don't participate in the cover up.

    I don't know that China "covers up" but by the logic assumed in several comments, i.e. extreme performance equals illegal measures, then the Chinese must be particularly guilty. I'm not suggesting that, I'm just following the logic.

  • Comment number 23.

    19.At 09:28 10th Aug 2012, archie_f wrote:
    If you're a country that's good at swimming, you have over 30 gold medals to compete for.

    If you're a country that's good at volleyball you have two.

    If you're a country that's good at cricket, you have none.

    So adding up the total golds across all sports is fairly meaningless. The medal table is pretty arbitrary, and only really useful for winding up the Aussies when they finish below us.

    ----------

    Spot. On.

    End of debate.

  • Comment number 24.

    Of course the Chinese fail tests because the sad truth is every country has cheats.

    US athletes like Marion Jones were performance enhanced and ran for years before being discovered thanks to a whistleblower who volunteered to have his blood tested so they could develop a test for the drug they were using. Her one failed drug test and subsequent ban was overturned on appeal thansk to Johnny Cochran of OJ trial fame. The sad fact is sport is big business and for every new drug we discover there are more being developed that we don't know about. This happens in the West and the East.

    If we take the logic extreme performance equals illegal measures, then why only apply it to the Chinese? Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, David Rushida, Lance Armstrong, Carl Lewis, Daley Thompson and Michael Johnson are all great athletes who achieved extreme performance but by your logic that must mean they did it illegally. Or does the logic only apply to non-Western athletes?

  • Comment number 25.

    David -Gold Medal count has to be the yardstick. Ask any of the Silver and Bronze medal winners if they would trade their medal for the Gold one and you have your answer! Or put it the otherway around how many Gold medal winners would trade their medal for silver or bronze.... its a 'no brainer'.

    Whether we like it or not, in all competition "first is first and second's no where" .... as someone once said. Awarding Silver and Bronze recognises that the individuals concerned got somewhere near to the prize they were competing for..... but didn't quite make it.

  • Comment number 26.

    It is wonderful to see "medal tables". However, a rational way to judge a country's success would be to weight the number of gold medals won with 1, silver with 1/2 and bronze with 1/4 and take the weighted sum total. Furthermore, weighted medal tallies should be quoted either per million of population and/or per million dollars of GDP. It is meaningless otherwise to compare China/US with Jamaica or even Granada. Performance "indices" make much more sense in global comparisons.

  • Comment number 27.

    10. At 08:12 10th Aug 2012, Esilef Ovat wrote:
    the Chinese concentrate more on individual golds, simply to be at the top of your medal table. Has a Chinese team ever won a real team sport (volleyball, handball, football, hockey, etc) at the Olympics? None!

    _____


    The Chinese have won woman volleyball a couple of times.

    I didn't feel it was particularly helpful when commentators have referred to Chinese athletes as 'robots', it was in the diving competitions i think. Think what you may of the government, but there is no need to de-humanize their athletes.

  • Comment number 28.

    There must be money at stake, otherwise the Americans wouldnt bat an eyelid. witness thier current concerted attempts to discredit the City of London and the security arrangements at the games. Just wish this has-been of a superpower would go quietly.

  • Comment number 29.

    I watched this story on the 2200 BBCTV1 news the other evening.
    What is interesting is that Soviet and Chinese success is always viewed through the prism of politics and ideology...but US success is never described in this way.
    In relation to China - our perceptions are clouded by what Edward Said described in Orientalism; the East Asian is constructed in the western imagination as something other. Implicit in this perception are ideas of cunning and duplicity.
    So, the US swim coach can't really help himself.
    There's the sport; and the interpretation. The meanings are always political.

  • Comment number 30.

    Reading the comments, it seems that a lot of readers buy into the 'throw more money at it, win more medals' ideology. Ultimately, this are sporting events, and should not be a measure of one country's might, or bragging rights. Yet that's what it seems to have become.
    At least with the space race it was achieving something for mankind, and our shared futures and knowledge. Throwing millions at the Olympics simply allows counties to feel a bit bigger, and benefits only a few hundred athletes, on a planet of over six billion souls.

  • Comment number 31.

    "...but US success is never described in this way."

    Perhaps not in the Western media, as that would be seen as conceit; but the subtext is there. Blatantly.
    Look at our media and what it says: If China/Russia win, it's because they are brutally harsh on young athletes because they are desperate to win for propaganda reasons... or because they are cheating. If Western countries win, it's a triumph of free-living and individual effort and the emphasis is often placed on the individual hero, defying the best efforts of an entire faceless nation. "Look what we did: This guy eats pizza and still beat those machines from the East."

    The sub-text is blatant: Freedom versus oppression. Heck: They even made a Rocky film about it!

  • Comment number 32.

    I'm not really sure the US vs China thing is the big story. Surely the big thing here is the decline of Russia and Germany and the massive improvement in GBs performance. Germany gained 33 Golds in 1992 . Compare that to 2012. A huge decline foe a rich country in just 20 years.

  • Comment number 33.

    Hey, surely the most appropriate measure is total medals or gold medas per capita?

    On that measure, the real sporting rivalry is Jamaica and New Zealand over many years.

  • Comment number 34.

    David, I was a bit sad the latest blog from you has not sparked the vibrant comments that your "legendary", awful, Cavendish blog caused. With regards to this one, not really sure what general point you are making that isn't plainly obvious to most observers. China won lots of medals at home, following this their aspirations remain high but the position in relation to others has slightly fallen back - who knew? Perhaps the next blog should be " Brazil hope to increase their medal haul in Rio" or is that a bit positive how about "Difficult questions to be answered if Brazil dont top medal table in Rio". I think a bit more analysis of which countries win in which sports would be interesting e.g. Look where South Korea win medals.

  • Comment number 35.

    From 10: Has a Chinese team ever won a real team sport (volleyball, handball, football, hockey, etc) at the Olympics? None!

    Chinese women's volleyball won gold medal twice at 1984 Los Angeles and 2004 Athens respectively.

    Esilef Ovat, you are inviting ridicule by making untrue claim. hope you learn something in the future.

  • Comment number 36.

    I would point out that there is no "decline" in Russian medal tallies - if you combine all the former soviet nations, you get a perfectly respectable tally however you count them, up there toe-to-toe with team GB.

  • Comment number 37.

    Fact: USA has a longer history and more cases of sports doping than China.

    Olympic Doping Cases by Country, 1968-2010: USA is in the top 3.

    http://sportsanddrugs.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=004420

  • Comment number 38.

    Chinese and American athletes have earned the right to feel proud as elite individuals in their respective sport without being portrayed as pawn pieces enforcing a national agenda. As someone from the United States I think the USA vs China articles are overblown. Journalists miss the Cold War so they are trying to fill a void. USA is a nation of immigrants making us naturally competitive as a nation due to our consistent competition internally amongst each other. When you combine this competitive spirit with a large economy and large population it will result in quality athletes. Go to a university-level venue in the USA for a sport such as American Football and you'll understand immediately. I have never had a conversation with another American regarding fear of China or distrust of Chinese athletes. John Leonard was a poor sport, every nation has them. The media loves these stories because rivalries get far more public attention than friendships. The world is becoming a smaller place and I look forward to future friendships with our Chinese brothers and sisters. If only the media could focus on the positive as equally as they do the negative, the world would be a much better place.

  • Comment number 39.

    @EnnisP

    All your posts thus far have been pro-America and anti-Rest of the World.

    Give us one reason to take anything you say seriously? America is historically the worst nation on the planet for it's athletes using performance enhancing drugs, in fact, several major US sports encourage them!

    And Team EU for your information, would be massively ahead in all forms of counting medals. If America (your lot) loves to band us all together when it is bad news for Europe, then we shall turn the table on your lot and use it when it is good for us. America's medal count is pretty low through Olympic History compared to the ridiculously successful European continent!

    Europe is massively superior to America in every way.

  • Comment number 40.

    PS. Your apparent aggressive mission to discredit China seems to stem from the fact that China is in fact taking over America as the world leader in Olympics, Politics, Economy, Military and Culture.

    Just accept the fact that America is in fact already second placed by the EU, and will be third placed by China. Then a few years later India will overtake America followed by Brazil and Russia.

    When your nation is out of the Top 5, we will concentrate on each other and perhaps give some call centre jobs to your country.... you know, just to make your people feel important again.

  • Comment number 41.

    @5. "shame on US"

    Umm, for what? Not taking children out of school as young as 5 and keeping them away from their families in "sports academies" while they are abused by coaches for the national good (leaving many with permanent physical and mental disabilities)?

    Not having a weightlifting gold medalist's family say that they didn't recognize him because they hadn't seen him in SIX years?

    Not telling a competitor that her grandmother had died a YEAR previously because they didn't want it to affect her Olympic time?

    Not having 30 doping scandals in swimming alone in one decade...and one earlier this year?

    Keep on hating the US, and I'll keep on respecting what they have done in a country where local athletics gets almost no government support, and where foreigners are welcome to train and then return to their country to win (Sharapova anyone?). Well done, USA. We like our grapes sour over here in Europe...

  • Comment number 42.

    I am afraid to say, the Olympics Game is a quiet war for the world countries every four years. To raise the national pride, only some big (UK, France, German, Japan,Korea) or super countries (US, China , Russia) can pour the money and compete medal. You will realize the top countries on the medal list will always be the power country on the earth. The player you saw on the match is not the real player, the country behind the player is the real player.

  • Comment number 43.

    @38 well said, Shaun

    @40/41. "Realist" indeed. Your national ad hominem attacks, and unsupported statements only make us English sound like a bunch of idiots. Please keep your toys in the pram when you see an American doing well. As the american said in 38, it's only us Europeans and saddy journalists who get so worked up about china versus the US. The number ones never care. Its always the also-rans making the comparisons.

  • Comment number 44.

    One of the most interesting things about the respective medal hauls is that the Chinese medals are spread widely whereas at the time of writing an astonishing 55 of the USA's 90 medals come from swimming (31) and athletics (24). Disregarding the top two sports for USA (swimming and athletics) and GB (track cycling and rowing) the US only has 16 golds compared with Britain's 14. An astonishing situation considering the USA's history and the fact it has 5 times more people.

  • Comment number 45.

    @39 "The Realist" - "Give us one reason to take anything you say seriously?"

    Oh, the irony.

    As for people comparing EU medal tally with that of the US and China, obviously the EU collectively get to enter far more competitors and benefit from the UK's home boost.

  • Comment number 46.

    Today (10.8.2012) the US has topped the medal list. Enjoy the spirit and be happy.
    Please, let the Olympic be for the World Peace and friendship, and not for anything negative that could cause to make this world not a better place to live in. China is doing good, besides all the negative comments. What is good must be recognised as good. What is true is true. Truth triumps!

  • Comment number 47.

    "Four years on in London it's clear that hope was in vain. Unlike the rest of the world (and crucially the International Olympic Committee), the US counts overall medals and not golds as the true measure of sporting success."

    This is untrue. Wikipedia (yeah, we can argue about that separately) states:

    "The International Olympic Committee (IOC) does not recognise global ranking per country"

    and

    "newspapers in the United States and Canada primarily publish medal tables ordered by the total number of medals won, and Canada used the total medal count on the official website for the Vancouver Olympics".

    and

    "In an August 24, 2008 news conference, IOC President Jacques Rogge confirmed that the IOC does not have a view on any particular ranking system"

    Get your facts right.

  • Comment number 48.

    It is rather silly to count medals at all. A medal victory by any colour is an individual or team accomplishment - not a victory for a person watching from the couch with beer in hand who happens to hold the same passport.

    Celebrate the physical prowess of all the athletes rather than stoke the fire of irrational nationalism.

  • Comment number 49.

    If I were to take the word we typically use to describe the tallness of a person and add an "S" to the beginning, I personally believe that this would perfectly describe this blog post.

    Why even bother?

  • Comment number 50.

    Ennis P: I was with you most of the way, but you are stretching it when you present the US College scholarship system as a cradle of the Corinthian ideals upon which the Olympics were founded. I agree that it is way better than the Eastern Bloc and now CHinese way of working but it is disingenuous to portray it the way you have.

    "Once out of high school, US athletes work through collegiate (university level) sports programs while doing a full course of academic studies. If they fail academically they are disqualified."

    Well, yes and no. The football team at my local D1 University has few Chemical Engineers on the squad. Lots of Criminal Justice and Art History majors etc. but not many guys stretching to get to a lab after training. The schools also work terribly hard to make sure that the kids don't fail academically with preferential study assistance and so on. At the big football and basketball factories, you know very well that this has been a focus of debate for many years, with academic eligibility being a continual challenge and with coaches attempting to stretch the rules to make players qualify. This is not limited to colleges either as the Dallas Lee math grade sub-plot of the book Friday Night Lights describes.

    "US sports authorities believe that character - which is stimulated as much by mental exercise as physical - is as important as natural physical ability." Depends on the college I think. I was about to hold Duke up as an example, but then remembered that ghastly business with the lacrosse team a couple of years back. The less said about Penn State and Sandusky the better. We need to remember also that football, routinely creates the revenue needed to keep most other sports going. So, the most corrupt of the US College sports, also becomes the most corrupting (Title 9 and other initiatives notwithstanding) as Athletic Administrators turn a blind eye to dodgy behavior "for the greater good".

    "Instead of assuming athletes are dimwitted they are all required to finish a bachelor's degree if they wish to advance. There are very few exceptions." Also not completely true but if you have stats for this in the major sports then feel free to share them. Many people who can make it in "the Bigs" bail on college early. Some then go back and earn their degree for sure but not all. Baseball and ice hockey use colleges for only part of their intake of athletes, preferring in many instances to work through the minor league systems.

  • Comment number 51.

    "US is already second placed by EU" ????



    EU is not a country. It's an artificial superstate which is going down as we speak, just as USSR and Yugoslavia did before they fell apart.

    [cf. economic data].

    Btw. It seems that as of August 10th, "decaying US" in which athletes are not supported by its government (unlike Chinese ones) - is on top.

  • Comment number 52.

    The Chinese government is heavily involved in their teams efforts, unlike in America. That's why for me the Chinese athletes are a turn off to watch. They remind me of the robot like athletes from former communist countries that in every case did whatever they needed to do to give their athletes the advantage. It's no surprise then that the Chinese are suspected of doping and any other methods, especially those unknown and that can get by testing, to help their athletes win.

  • Comment number 53.

    The realist wrote: "Just accept the fact that America is in fact already second placed by the EU"

    The EU is not a country. Let me repeat that; the EU is not a country. It isn't even a culture. It's an organisation that continues to trick, fool, coerce, and threaten its members, not to mention prospective members, to give up their sovereignty in order to create a country that can dominate on the world stage. It's about jealousy. It's about a superior and condescending attitude. It's about power. In a nutshell, it is evil. Read the bible, the story is in there.

  • Comment number 54.

    The more you dope athletes, the more medals they get. What is the sense of getting medals? Life is not at all about gaining medals, fortunately not.Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play.It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules, and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence.

  • Comment number 55.

    I'm an American, just to start... It should be no surprise that the vast economic power of the US, combined with a population of 300 million, turns out many great athletes. It's equally no great surprise that China, with 5 times that population - and a great deal of state and governmental control - does the same. Both nations should be proud... What's REALLY amazing is the tally from the UK - again, great economic power, but only 60 millions to draw from - the 'British' should be VERY proud of London 2012...

  • Comment number 56.

    I think the author missed two important point1. (1) Olympics has been in the past and it is still today nothing but competition. It reveals a country's determination to compete. China has proved herself to be very competitive elsewhere and no exception in sports.

    (2) People having gone through the toughest tranining are more motivated by the glorious dreams of winning an Olympic medal. This seeking of honor and glory has been the driving force for us since ancient time.

    I don't think large population is a factor here. Just look at India, the second largest population without a gold so far; also look at small countries like South and North Korea and Japan who have garnered plenty comparing to their population.

    I think there are something in Chinese, Korean and Japanese culture that encourages strongly the pursuit of glory, no matter how much it might take.

  • Comment number 57.

    a couple aspects of this article i found really grating:

    1. The author belittles the US practice of reckoning by total medal count rather than gold count, when using a shred of mathematical introspection would tell you that it is a better measure of overall sporting success than going off of golds alone.

    2. Ye Shiwen's surname is Ye, not Shiwen.

  • Comment number 58.

    What about the number of Olympians from all over the world who are able to realize their dreams by participating in US collegiate athletics and/or train in the US, such as Kirani James or Mo Farah ? This is where the US really shines and differs from China.

  • Comment number 59.

    What's truly amazing is that the USA, now the poorest country in the world (14 trillion in debt), is getting as many medals (if not more) as China, one of the richest. Why can't China, with FIVE TIMES the population of the US and all that money, get FIVE TIMES as many medals as the Americans? They must be hanging their heads in disbelief at the strength of these western athletes. As for ping-pong being an Olympic "sport", don't even get me started.

  • Comment number 60.

    Really BBC? Stirring up beef between the USA and China? That's not respectable journalism. Of course we [Americans] want to be 1st place: it's about being in 1st, and not about China. I'm sure that the Chinese feel exactly the same way in that winning is more important to them than simply trumping the USA. Aren't you guys in the UK also proud of your considerable achievements this time around in collecting as many golds as possible?

  • Comment number 61.

    @52.AllenT2:

    >>It's no surprise then that the Chinese are suspected of doping and any other >>methods, especially those unknown and that can get by testing, to help their >>athletes win.

    I think you are either naive or misguided in your evaulation by your own political bias.

    Firstly many countries have drug cheats and it's nothing to do with democracy or authoritirian rule and all do with the desire to win. The Chinese swimmers caught doping didn't take drugs because they lived in a communist state anymore than Marion Jones or CJ Hunter or Justin Gatlin or Ben Johnson did because they lived in a democratic one!

    You talk about robotic athletes but sadly that's a reflection of modern coaching in many countries including the US and the UK where natural styles are coached into more scientifically efficient methods.

  • Comment number 62.

    Some time ago, somebody explains that the europeans are the real winners in terms of medals. Compare what may be comparable and put france, germany, italy, spain ... together. This will match the USA population. Add the medals of all these countries and bingo the europeans are winning the medals contest ... and by far .... To be fair, you should c ompare what is comparable. Nobody will compare the results of Belgium with the ones of France ... as an example ....

  • Comment number 63.

    The following comments are intended to be neutral.

    It's worth noting that the sports in which USA does best at the Olympics (swimming and track/field) are *very* big business in the collegiate world, with hundreds of millions of dollars involved and the sports contested in an extremely fierce competitive environment. We should not be surprised at their success. Similarly, it would be easy to attribute USA's comparative lack of success in other sports to a lack of money and/or interest.

    It's also worth noting that two of the main four US professional sports (American football and baseball) are not represented in the Olympics.

    I am inclined to ignore any comments about illegal use of drugs, because we only know about athletes who are caught, we have very little idea of how many athletes (countries even ?) cheat but are not caught.

  • Comment number 64.

    A logical system of tabulating medals would be to give 3 for gold, 2 for silver and 1 for Bronze. But since most of the world cares about most gold, I am so proud at where US is poised at this point but we need to execute on the last days. On China, have to respect the results but the state support compared to what our athletes get is much more. So the issue of grater per capital wealth of the US being more is evened out by the Chinese with the vast wealth held at the governmental level. GO USA!

  • Comment number 65.

    The British are only good at sports where few nations, mostly European, compete. Track cycling and rowing for example. Being a host country they won medals in some events in which they usually don't. So, savour your passing success as it will be back to mediocrity for team England (say goodbye to Scotland in 2014) in Rio.

  • Comment number 66.

    #65 Lothario. Do you consider 19/13/15 at Beijing and 9/9/12 at Athens as mediocre ? I don't. Obviously home advantage contributes to 25/15/15, but we will subside (gracefully, I hope) to no worse than excellent.

  • Comment number 67.

    I believe people (athletes) are more important than medals and so the number of medals won overall are more meaningful than the colors of those medals. More medals means more people getting medals. Sports doesn't have to always be about coming in first, in the Olympics second and third count also.

  • Comment number 68.

    In the somewhat silly competition of "who has the most medals", one should not forget that Western Europe is far and away the dominant sports power. It has won more medals than the U.S. and China combined. While not a "nation" it is clearly the top producer of world class athletes.

  • Comment number 69.

    Is it really all that important as to who wins the most golds or the most overall medals? Did you not cheer when David Rudisha set a world record in the 800 m? Or when the other numerous world/olympic/national/season best records have been set? Or when countries like Cyprus, Botswana, Guatemala, Grenada (and later today) Montenegro earned their first ever medals?

    Yes competition is what it is all about, but the competition should be left on the field, pool,
    harbor, race course....if the media wants to make an issue of it, that's their problem.

    I'm more annoyed with all of the commercial interruptions during the tv and internet streaming of the games (in the US).

  • Comment number 70.

    It's all irrelevant because neither China or the USA are the greatest medal gatherers that prize would go to Europe hands down. With a current count of no less than 336. Must have something to do with our decadent 'socialist' life style.
    Possibly it's got a lot more to do with the inclusive way in which most European countries approach sport and the facilities that are made available.

  • Comment number 71.

    To all those who keep bringing up that the EU/Europe would be the overall leader, I think you are missing an extremely important point that Mikado made above... if the EU was in the Olympics as one country they would not be able to enter as many competitors, thus the overall number of medals would surely go down, perhaps significantly.

    I, as an American, have always looked to Great Britain as our country's parent - the country who gave birth to our own (as do most Americans). Most of us have a high respect for the British people and a genuine love for you. However, when I read these comment threads I wonder if that affection is misplaced - the anger and hatred towards the U.S. in some of these comments is palpable. I just hope they are the exception.

    P.S.: The idiotic Mitt Romney does not speak for us.

  • Comment number 72.

    I think something like a Borda Count would make the most sense when determining who had the most success at the Olympics. While a silver and bronze obviously isn't equal to a gold, they are beter than that of a 4th place finish. It should go by a points system, where say Gold gets 3, Silver 2, and Bronze 1. This makes the most sense,at least to me.

    And using the EU instead of individual countries would be interesting. I don't think it would be as beneficial as one might think. While I can't attest to this personally (being American), I don't think an English Athlete would be fond of representing the EU, vs. representing the UK. A gold for England would be a Gold for France. It really wouldn't give the same nationalistic pride that helps athletes compete at a high level.

  • Comment number 73.

    I find this discussion about how to tabulate countries according to Golds/Silvers/Bronzes or total medal counts quite amusing. As here in the US they normally talk about being second as being equal to last i.e. a loser and winner takes all! Now they include the 2nd and 3rd losers in tally. I suppose it is only human nature to use the best format for oneself. So to completely rubbish this discussion maybe they should give out medals for 4th, 5th etc. copper, tin and...

  • Comment number 74.

    The US will continue it's medal lead because of track and field where china is nowhere to be found.

  • Comment number 75.

    71 Kalex
    No hatred but certainly can do without Mr Romney and also the strange, to us idea, that the USA can prosecute people for breaking it's laws even when they are not Americans, don't live there and broke no laws in the country in which they were living. The current affair of Standard Chartered Bank and the New York regulatory authorities leaves a very bad taste.

  • Comment number 76.

    75 Timothy

    One of the big problems with my country is the ignorance of our countrymen. We have no clue what's what in the world and I would gather the vast majority have no idea what's going on with Standard Chartered Bank.

    Our political parties have become identity-based "teams" and the actual policies that are advocated are never fully understood. We have a Australian jerk who is brainwashing 40% of our country via Fox News (who finally got into some trouble with your help). The titans of finance here are horrible people who are destroying our country and screwing the rest of the world for their personal profit. There's a lot wrong with us, some of us know this but most do not. I don't want to excuse our ignorance, but it really is at the heart of it - we are a kind and caring people that are too easily manipulated.

    Not to get off topic :)

  • Comment number 77.

    The argument that if 2nd and 3rd count for something, then 4th+ should as well is a real dumb argument. They don't award a medal to those athletes. They were never mean't to get any sort of special recognition. If these medals don't count for anything, why award them at all? To me its a no brainer. Total medal count is 2nd to golds, but there could be a better system where they count medals not equally, but according to their merit.

  • Comment number 78.

    #76 Kalex - As another American, I 2nd all of those opinions!

    Re: Standard Charter - that 'right of judgement' policy does leave a bad taste in my mouth as well, though it is useful if it can stymie evil regimes like Assad's Syria. I still don't like it, though.

    Re: medal counting - I agree that there should be a better way to count medals. A country with a dozen Silvers, and a dozen Bronzes shouldn't lag behind a country with just one Gold and nothing else, for example.

  • Comment number 79.

    I'm an American. I live in the New York metropolitan area. I have to admit I've been checking the metal table every day specifically to see where the US and China are ranked. However, at the same time I've been rooting for Team GB as well as Bolt and athletes from other nations.

    I see the competition between the US and China as a good thing. Here at home we have the NY Yankees versus the Boston Red Sox. The NY Giants vs the New England Patriots (in American football). I believe it's good and healthy to have a strong competitor, makes you want to step up and do as well as you could (Kick butt).

    I am not happy that accusations were made about the Chinese doping. I think it was an emotional response not a logical one and people here aren't obsessed with that story. And believe me we are very critical of our own athletes if they are involved in any scandal.

    At this stage I know that China is feeling strong and wanting to take it's seat at the world table. Some say the US is in decline. As an American I am aware of these issues, but one thing that isn't typically American is that I wan't to look at this long term. The US has to undergo a lot of changes to remain competitive and strong. And it will. It's much like a sports team that has to rebuild and recruit new players to try to win championships. The first thing is we all have to be on the same page. We will do it.

    The Olympics brings a source of pride to any nation who competes and wins. The past few years have been dark for the US and much of the world. It's good to have a few weeks where athletes from different nations compete with each other and citizens cheer them on. And it's good to have national heroes and a peaceful healthy competition.

  • Comment number 80.

    Fact: USA has a longer history and more cases of sports doping than China.

    Olympic Doping Cases by Country, 1968-2010: USA is in the top 3.

    http://sportsanddrugs.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=004420

  • Comment number 81.

    As bad as this sounds their is not huge support for Olympic sports in the US until the actual Olympics start. This is because sports such as Baseball, Basketball, and American Football are sports where if you are talented can make a lot of money in your career and stay relatively close to home while doing so. In sports such as soccer, gymnastics, and swimming many kids are forced to travel to several states just to compete which can be a huge financial burden to many families. Also in the US "sports" such as table tennis, rowing, sailing, and archery are seen as hobbies and thus the US doesn't produce the best athletes for these competitions.

    One sport which is not in the Olympics anymore and should be is baseball. Baseball is a popular sport in East Asia, Caribbean, North America, South America. However was removed from the Olympics. But a skill or hobby such as archery, badminton, or table tennis is considered an Olympic sport (no European favoritism by the IOC) has crushed the dreams of several athletes who have trained for a chance to play in the Olympics for their country in the sport of baseball.

    Well that's is my small rant about how the US does not send the best athletes in their country but maybe the wealthiest or second tier athletes and still dominates the world. Just imagine if Lebron James, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Adrian Peterson, Asante Samuel, and etc. grew up playing football instead of their respected sports. Or what if Robert Griffin lll chose to enter the Olympics instead of enter the NFL draft the US would add at least 2 or 3 medals to their total. The US has the best athletes in the world but just in the wrong sports.

  • Comment number 82.

    This China vs. US thing has been blown way out of proportion by the media.

    As an American I don't know anyone who feels this is an issue at all.

    This article is just a British journalist doing his job: attracting an audience/encouraging debate. He doesn't really know anything extraordinary about this topic.

    I sort of feel stupid for having read it in the first place.

  • Comment number 83.

    Both the US and China are at the top of the medals count because of political aggregation. If we add up all the previous Soviet Union countries, they would be leading in the medals count.
    But more important still, Europe competes as a number of "ununified" countries. Added together they dwarf the medals count of US and China, fact is more than both put together. Why is Europe so much better at the Olympics?

  • Comment number 84.

    Tim0thy wrote:
    "It's all irrelevant because neither China or the USA are the greatest medal gatherers that prize would go to Europe hands down."

    First off, there is no such thing as "Team Europe". Europe is not a country. It's kind of funny how your country is losing to the US so you have to arbitrarily add other countries to your perceived home team and take credit for their accomplishments.

    Secondly, just GB and Germany, having less people than the US, have far more athletes competing at the Olympics. Right now the UK has as many athletes as the US does. The amount of athletes countries have competing is not proportionate to their population and couldn't be without making the Olympics unnecessarily large, so comparing medals to population makes no sense at all. Your logic basically asserts that if one American was competing against 1 Briton in the same event, that the American's chances of winning should be directly proportionate to the population advantage of the US over the UK, that the American would have 5 times the chances of winning. The mental gymnastics you resort to in order to rob the US of credit and salvage your pride are hilarious to witness.

    A better way of determining performance of countries at the Olympics is by looking at the percentage of their athletes that win medals. The US is leading in this regard:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/olympics/2012/games-so-far

    The US is not only leading overall in both golds and total medals but is "punching above its weight".

  • Comment number 85.

    The Realist wrote: "And Team EU for your information, would be massively ahead in all forms of counting medals."

    EU countries have way, way more athletes competing than the US does. If the US were to match just the UK in athletes per population, the US would have 3000 athletes competing at the Olympics and would be beating you by an even larger margin.

    "Europe is massively superior to America in every way."

    What's funny is that Europe is actually so massively inferior to the US in every way that you have to lie to yourselves to claim otherwise, to cope with your inferiority complex.

    1) The US is the most technologically advanced nation on earth:

    http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/eco_tec_ind-economy-technology-index

    2) Americans are the most generous people in the world, giving over twice as much of their income to charity as the next most generous nation.

    http://www.cafonline.org/pdf/International%20Comparisons%20of%20Charitable%20Giving.pdf

    3) Americans have the highest rate of secondary education completion out of developed countries:

    http://www.conferenceboard.ca/hcp/details/education/high-school-graduation-rate.aspx

    4) The US has the highest education attainment out of any major industrialized nation. Americans are more likely to receive higher education than Europeans, Canadians, Australians etc...

    Pg 42 of this PDF:

    http://www.educationalpolicy.org/pdf/Global2005.pdf

    5) The US dominates in academic performance. So not only does the US get more of its population into higher education, but the education we receive is the best in the world, and results in vastly superior academic performance in all broad subject fields when ranked among world universities.

    Natural Sciences and Mathematics
    http://www.arwu.org/FieldSCI2010.jsp

    Engineering/Technology and Computer Sciences
    http://www.arwu.org/FieldENG2010.jsp

    Life and Agriculture Sciences
    http://www.arwu.org/FieldLIFE2010.jsp

    Clinical Medicine and Pharmacy
    http://www.arwu.org/FieldMED2010.jsp

    Social Sciences
    http://www.arwu.org/FieldSOC2010.jsp

    6) Americans are the most productive workers in the world:
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20572828/

    Europeans are so undeservedly arrogant it is amazing. You're constantly engaged in a US-bashing campaign that is way of coping with being inferior to and dependent on the US in every regard.

  • Comment number 86.

    I'm sorry, I don't view China vs USA as a sports rivalry. When one country sweeps table tennis and walking (???), I don't view that as being a diverse athletic powerhouse. C'mon!

  • Comment number 87.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 88.

    Pretty disgusted by this article. British hacks really do like to stir up animosity. Why are you not celebrating the great sporting festival you have successfully hosted and the over achievement of your own athletes instead of stirring up ill will about two other countries who have done nothing wrong other than achieve more medals. I thought better of the BBC as a news organization that uses such an article to light the touch paper of dislike for perceived US arrogance (often actually just self-belief) and then retire having stoked the fires of jingoistic 'America bad' USA bashing.

  • Comment number 89.

    Having read more of David Bond's blogs, I can only presume that he has no interest in sport (and the fundamental principles of it). The laziness of his reporting is surprising for the BBC.

    Can he really not be bothered to research the sports he is commenting on? The cycling episode is a clear example of this. Snide remarks on the news is another feature of lazy reporting, picking up on the negative and obvious is easy, getting into the detail is the hard part. An example was shown after the cycling, I would have thought that the key question was: "Why did the Aussies and Germans not try to help a sprint finish given that was there best chance of a medal?" - Someone in David's position should be able to help find the answer but instead asks whether the tour de France caused Cavendish not to win. A comment confirmed as being idiotic when we won Gold and Bronze in the time trial.

    David should really consider a move away from sport so someone with integrity, hard work and genuine interest can help provide the insight that UK needs.

  • Comment number 90.

    First of all, this is a terribly boring article. I think it was pretty clear the US and China have a rivalry. Sadly this article basically states nothing further than that... Good insight BBC!

    Second, arguing over medals makes absolutely no sense to me. I can't even get my head around why anyone would think it did. The Olympics is just an odd selection of arbitrary physical activities that all give different amounts of medals. The comparison over how nations do over stuff like population makes absolutely no sense thanks to that fact. I guess Jamaica has the world greatest athletes because they have 3 million people but win lots of medals?

  • Comment number 91.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 92.

    For the person or people who stated that China has not won any team events, maybe they should do a better research and come back here to post an apolige to China. I am not talking about table tennis.

  • Comment number 93.

    As usuall, it seemas some Brits,like Realist, are showing of their inferiority complex and jealosy. it makes me feel good as an American. if you want to create a EU team then go ahead. all you are saying is that you no longer have an patriotism,national identity,or athletic calliber like the Americans,RUSSIANS, or chinese. its a shame, but thats what happens when you don't have athletic talent and great trainin programs and private initiatives like the Americans. you can use all the excuses in the world like dopinf scandals(which has'nt plagued the us as you think). it seems that the only way brittain can win is by using dope. can't say that about the us where there is pure talent. brittain can have rowing,but why can't you compete in the more notable athletic events like

  • Comment number 94.

    The author fails to realize that China is like the old USSR. Winning medals for the communist party- at all cost. Once the money runs out and the passion and illegal means go away, China will become just like a regular sporting nation- ie Cuba, GDR (East Germany), old USSR, Romania etc. The US will always be a super power as a sporting nation. It's in the blood to compete. Check out all the Olympics and you see the US is always at the top and top 3 in medal tally. A nation comes up to challenge it then that nation goes away while the US is still at the top. Example is China this Olympics. Notice how the US is ahead of China in Gold and Total medal. You can tell China reached it's plateau in Beijing 2008. It's all down hill from there. Australia reached it's plateau in 2000 or 2004 and it is all downhill from there. The UK reached it this year and it will also be downhill from now on. Meanwhile, The US will always be at the top or second. Sports are not forced in the US, you either like it or you don't. It's all about passion. That's a far cry from the Chinese system which is unsustainable.

  • Comment number 95.

    Rivalry is a US obsession for Ego-stroking while China is in persuit of Excellence,will take whatever they achieve and try harder next time. Proof is in the too many Questionable calls which benefit US. Un-Stacking of FIFA and other judging Commissions to reflect the New Global reality is a must.Too many bad calls for Olympics or any SPORT for that matter.

  • Comment number 96.

    Like Bill Gates opined "being one in a million is Special most places, but in China it means you're just one of Thousands". Wherever from it's all about Incentive & Reward these days. Sport is the only way out of Poverty for many in US, observe distraught parents in the stands not even bothering to offer encouragement to their children when they loose. Fact is China is now more Capitalist than Communist, to keep harping on them as Communist is to admit that Free-Market Capitalism is inferior. Having witnessed Russian bread-lines from their rush to Western style Democracy China decided on a blend of both to their success. We could either embrace sour-grapes or try to Learn something.

  • Comment number 97.

    As an American, I think I do myself and my country the greatest service by being genuinely happy for and celebrating China's success. I know the Olympics are inexorably tied to a great deal of nationalism. But in a time of ever closer global connections I think we should celebrate excellence no matter which country's flag is flying at the top of the podium. Let's not forget the spirit of the games. We're all human beings who essentially strive for the same things, regardless of the shortcomings of the governments that represent us.

  • Comment number 98.

    This is pathetic hand wringing over what is nothing short of astounding athletic achievement by individuals and teams. The US has had the same democratic government in place for well over 200 years and it has welcomed the most talented individuals over the centuries as a part of its credo. What you see is well deserved results that are shared by all races and cultures. Last time I checked we had a President of African decent. Let's see China do that! Also I'd say our female runners absolutely shattered a 30 year old record of their own accord, not at the behest some imaginary "sports club" millionaires. Our basketball team shows the extreme nature of our achievements as a nation as does our 1 tonne vehicle exploring Mars at the same time. I can only imagine what would happen if we had 5 times the population, as China does. Good on China as it flexes it's state-driven muscles...but don't dare belittle our athletes as though we've done something wrong, Nancy.

  • Comment number 99.

    For China the total number of medals and number of gold it wins at the Olympics has great political importance.Americans enjoy the games but it doesn't mean as much to us.When we're interested we focus on the individuals. Despite the lavish money and effort China has expended and having four times as many people, the US has more gold, more silver, more bronze and more total medals than China or anyone else. In a week we will have forgotten the whole thing when we get back to the problems of the real world.

 

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