Can We Quit the Olympic Medal Count?

I’m not a big fan of the country-by-country Olympic medal count so frequently published by U.S. news outlets covering the Games. I’m as patriotic as the next guy and proud to see Americans are performing well, but there are a few reasons why this seemingly popular tally gets under my skin.

1. It assigns equal value to gold, silver, and bronze medals. If you really wanted to judge how countries stack up against each other in Olympic performance, shouldn’t a gold medal be worth more than a bronze? If you gave three points for every gold medal, two points for every silver, and a single point for bronze, it would paint a more accurate picture of which country is really coming out on top, if you’re into that sort of thing, which I’m not.


Neither rational nor ideal.

2. The current tally system implies every country competing in the games is represented by the same number of athletes, each with identical potential for capturing the same number of medals. But when you have one country sending a couple hundred athletes to the Games, while another nation sends only two, it makes little sense to even attempt comparing each country’s performance side by side.

3. The medal counts simply diminish the spirit of the Games. In my opinion, the Olympics are about the glory of sport and sportsmanship, stories of hard work and years of sacrifice, and the world coming together, if only for a few days every couple of years, to celebrate something beautiful about humanity. The focus on which country is leading the medal count only seems to direct the focus away from Olympic ideals while tarnishing the heart of the Games.

I can’t be the only one who feels this way, right?