A country’s greatness is worth more than their medal count


Women's halfpipe medalists from right, China's Liu Jiayu silver, United States' Chloe Kim, gold, and United States' Arielle Gold, bronze, pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (Morry Gash/AP)

Women’s halfpipe medalists from right, China’s Liu Jiayu silver, United States’ Chloe Kim, gold, and United States’ Arielle Gold, bronze, pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (Morry Gash/AP)

For anyone that doesn’t know, the 2018 Winter Olympics started this past week in PyeongChang, South Korea. Currently, the countries which have won the most medals are Norway, which has won 11, the Netherlands and Canada, which have each won 10, Germany, which has won nine, and the United States, which has won six. While it is undeniable that all of the 2,952 athletes competing this month in PyeongChang are extremely talented, it is also hard to miss that almost all of the countries leading in the medal standings have something in common: their status.

Looking at the top-rated countries at these Olympic games, it is clear that the majority are wealthy nations that also have the advantage of being able to support winter sports. Similarly, looking at an overall ranking of all past Olympics reveals a similar trend with the top medal-earning countries tending to be those that are wealthier and have the ability to put more money and effort into their sporting events. While these countries did not win their medals by buying their way to the top, it is worth noting that there is an obvious trend of who typically excels at the Olympics.

These trends and facts do not discount the idea that athletes, not money, are what win Olympic medals. It is the talent, drive and determination of the athletes that earn countries the right to boast about the number of medals they won, not the amount of money that each country pours into their training programs. Maybe it’s time to stop measuring the worth of our countries by their performance at the Olympics and start measuring them by the quality of life they provide for their citizens.

Despite the fact that the amount of talented athletes in a country does little to determine the success of a nation, it still seems like many countries boast their superiority over others based on this criterion. However, there are many other things that would be a better estimation of a country’s status and overall quality than their performance at the Olympic Games. While the athletic abilities of the elite few in a country can be important for entertainment value as well as the unity and pride of a nation, they really do little to estimate the actual quality of a country. Instead, we could measure the worth of our countries based on things that are more relevant to the entire population of the country, like health, overall happiness and quality of the environment.

One issue with using a country’s performance at the Olympics to measure the overall quality of the nation is that the Olympics only apply to a select group of the country’s population. Just because certain people from one country are talented gymnasts or cross-country skiers does not necessarily reflect the abilities of the entire people. Measuring a country’s quality based on their health or overall happiness is a much better reflection of how the general population fares, rather than just the elite few who are most likely at their healthiest. According to a study by 24/7 Wall St., some of the healthiest countries in the world include Australia, Luxembourg and Norway, with Qatar earning the number one spot. Comparing the healthiest countries to the current standings in the medal count, only Norway overlaps, indicating that just because a country may have talented athletes, it may not be the most hospitable place to live.

While I love watching the Olympics, both summer and winter, and understand the extremes these athletes must go to so they can compete at the highest level, they should not be a reflection of the state of our countries. Just because a country has the most gold medals or has attended the most Olympic games does not make them better than any other country when it comes to the overall life that their people enjoy. It is time to stop using the Olympics as bragging rights for our countries’ greatness and instead encourage our countries to make themselves great in ways other than the athletes they boast.

Emma Hungaski is the associate opinion editor  for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at emma.hungaski@uconn.edu.

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