The lightening Usain Bolt and other Jamaican sprint aces helped their country win six gold medals in Beijing, but they could never think that also raises the Caribbean island atop on the medal tally.
At least one Australian researcher thinks so. Simon Forsyth, from Brisbane, ranked Jamaica first in his Beijing Olympic medal tally by population, highly ahead of China and the United States.
In his "gold medal tally by per million population", Jamaica was winning with 2.1582 as of Saturday afternoon. The runner-up is Bahrain and Estonia the third. China was 45th, the United States was 31st and Russia 26th.
Forsyth also provides total medal tally and weighted medal score both by per million population. Jamaica still holds the top. And the "Giant 3" China, the United States and Russia, lag in distance, too.
Forsyth's own country, Australia, ascends top 10 in those three tallies, but trails some "small countries" like Bahamas and Slovenia.
India, the second most-populated country in the world, ranks last in all three tallies.
Forsyth began publishing the Olympic medals per population results since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Part of his work at the School of Population Health, University of Queensland is data manipulation, so he was able to scrape the medal information and produce the results fairly easily.
"My reason for producing and discussing the per population rankings are simple: to show people there is more than one way to look at results, and the first, most obvious way a person looks at results usually does not mean what they think it means," he said in an email.
Another reason driving Forsyth could be the "loud clowns", as he said, that "the USA is the best at sports in the world" or "the best athletes all come from the USA".
"What does winning the biggest count of medals at the Olympics mean?" he asks, "Simply that your country won more medals than anyone else."
"Does this high count mean your country is the best at sport, or has the best athletes, or is the fittest nation? Not at all."
Forsyth explains that through the per population results he was not trying to say the Bahamas and Norway are better at sport. "The only thing you can draw from this is that The Bahamas won more gold medals per population than any other country."
"The real problem comes when people try to read more meaning into a ranking than there really is," said he.
"Yes, the per population ranking is flawed as a measure of sporting performance," Forsyth admits, "but I would argue that the simple sum medal ranking is at least as flawed."
The U.S. media ranks delegations by the total medals they win, and Uncle Sam tops that table though the Chinese win much more gold medals. The rest of the world counts the table by golds.
Every one should be proud that his or her country wins more medals than anyone else, Forsyth believes. Meanwhile, "Should you be proud that your country won more medals per population than any other country? Yes, at least equally so."
The web address of Forsyth's tally is http://simon.forsyth.net/olympics.html, which updates every 15 minutes if the results from the official site have changed.
(Xinhua News Agency August 23, 2008)