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For the Gold

By Matthew Yglesias on March 1, 2010 at 8:31 am

"For the Gold"

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Reflecting on Canada’s win yesterday in the ice hockey gold medal game, doesn’t it seem mighty strange that the media is so eager to go along with the theory that the right way to do nation-to-nation comparisons of Olympic performances is via a brute “medal count?” It’s relevant because the US has the most medals overall, followed by Germany, followed by Canada but when you look at overall gold medals it’s just the reverse—Canada leads, followed by Germany, followed by the United States.

Common sense is that there should be some kind of weighted point system. Maybe five for a gold, three for a silver, and one for a bronze.
Obviously these bronze and silver medals count for something, but equally obviously the medals don’t all count equally. Nobody reacted to Canada’s win by shrugging and saying “well, it doesn’t effect the overall medal count, a silver’s just as good as a gold.” And certainly nobody thinks Finland’s bronze is just as good as Canada’s gold.

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