Olympics: Medal Table and Changes for Rio?

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Gold Silver Bronze
Great Britain 8 2 2
Germany 1 4 1
France 1 3
USA 1 2 1
Australia 1 2 3
Colombia 1 1
Netherlands 1 2
Kazakhstan 1
Denmark 1
Lithuania 1
Czech Republic 1
China 2 1
New Zealand 1 2
Switzerland 1
Russia 2
Norway 1
Hong Kong 1
Canada 1
Italy 1

The 2012 Olympics have come to an end. The medal table is a reductive way to look at things as the count doesn’t include the emotions of the past two weeks nor does it reflect the subtle differences in prestige between different competitions.

marianne vos

My personal highlight was the women’s road race, incredible drama all the way to the finish. Vos was the obvious pick for the race but the outcome was uncertain for a long time and even when she won it was impressive; plus nobody questioned the result, unlike the men’s race. Chris Hoy’s keirin gold was very impressive, he appeared to launch is effort far too early but just kept going.

I still think the track program needs a big review ahead of Rio 2016. The team pursuit is good but without the individual pursuit we’re missing something; nobody would scrap the 400 metres in track and field and leave the relay race behind. As others have said the omnium, whilst exciting, is still the kind of race that beginners do as they try to work out where their speciality is and it’s not the velodrome’s version of the decathlon since the races are all too similar.

There is talk of increasing the number of medals on the track. I gather this could be linked to the introduction of skateboarding to the 2012 Olympics. The inclusion of BMX in 2008 was overseen by the UCI and is part of the IOC’s move to encourage alternative “generation X” sports (thus ensuring market saturation for the sponsors). The IOC is keen to bring skateboarding to the Olympics and the UCI is the chosen governing body. It’s not as goofy as it sounds, if the UCI can seize control of oversee the introduction of skateboarding then the IOC might be willing to award more medals to track cycling

One thing that’s not changing for Rio is the generous funding of the British team. The government has announced it will continue generous funding of elite sport and we can expect cycling to get a substantial share of money and presumably medals in Rio. Perhaps the question is whether Dave Brailsford stays with the track team or focusses more on the road. British radio have done a good profile of him, you can listen here.

Will other teams catch up?
When one nation has led on the track they have been imitated, even had their staff poached. It is one thing to reach the top but staying there is very hard which makes the current British success more impressive, coming after Beijing four years ago. Now it is hard to know who the challengers are. Australia could come back, the French don’t seem to have the money and perhaps instead the Chinese and Russians will take over, or at least claim a larger share of the medals?

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{ 58 comments }

bobofett3 August 12, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Skateboarding? You have got to be kidding me. If its in the X-games, it does not belong in the olympics. And that goes for the snowboarding events in the Summer Games. It has nothing to with the legitimacy of the sport, but if my grandma does’t think its a sport, then it doesn’t belong in the Olympics. I think you can make an argument for mountain biking being included, but I watched the BMX the other day, and there is absolutely no way that should be included. Fun? Exciting? I guess, but come on. I guess they are trying to turn the Summer Olympics into the Winter Olympics. Or maybe I am just becoming old and these youths are starting to get on my nerves.

The Inner Ring August 12, 2012 at 6:04 pm

It’s business. These are sports with an “important demographic” in marketing terms.

Bickus August 12, 2012 at 6:04 pm

You’re just trolling, right? If not, I must assume you’d rather watch synchronized swimming or rhythmic gymnastics than BMX?

Sam August 12, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Two examples which I wouldn’t describe as a sport :)

BoboFett3 August 12, 2012 at 9:31 pm

There are plenty of Olympic sports that I don’t watch. I can’t stand waterpolo or field hockey but think they should be in the Olympics. This has nothing to do with how legitimate of a sport it is or how much I enjoy it. I’ll watch skateboarding or snowboarding if it’s on TV but it has no place in the Olympics. Same with American football. I’m sure the skateboarding and BMX athletes train really hard. But I do not think BMX should be an Olympic sport, nor should skateboarding. And I get the whole business thing, but that doesn’t mean it’s right or justified. This is kind of a straw man argument, but you can say its a good business deciscion to have shoes made in Calcutta by kids in sweatshops.

Larry T. August 12, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Look at it this way, if UCI takes over skateboarding, perhaps we can find a NEW organization to govern cycling? Can’t ya just see Pat “Mad Hatter” McQuaid in Van’s sneakers and baggy shorts?

JimW August 13, 2012 at 5:02 am

HA!
Checkerboard slip-ons! Easy on the bunions and they breath so nicely.

Chris August 12, 2012 at 8:40 pm

As ‘The Inner Ring’ says – it’s business. As for skateboading being an Olympic ‘Sport’: that’s a joke and does nothing but devalue the Olympics. Might as well bring in Chess!

I love the idea of the Olympics, the spectacle of 4 years separating Gold medal winners, lots of sports together and the notion of only good: that said the amount of money involved, the top sponsors paying $250m just to be involved is disgusting.

It’s just another business, nothing more, nothing less.

jack August 12, 2012 at 10:15 pm

chess would be good

Igam Ogam August 12, 2012 at 9:11 pm

I think skateboarding probably deserves a place in the Olympics as the biggest and most mature “modern” sport. I’m grateful to Skateboarding because it’s what got me in to cycling (long story) and I’m always mesmerized watching good skaters ride – it is just more impressive than the other “X” sports IMHO.

However, though I love boarding I will be disappointed on another level because it will be yet another sport that will be decided by judges and along with Gymnastics, high-diving and Ice-dance will not have the credibility of events which are won “first-across-the-line”.

steppings August 12, 2012 at 6:01 pm

The action in the velodrome has been fantastic, really wonderful. My highlight too was the womens RR what with the conditions and the general excitement and also screaming for Lizzie to win. Biggest disappoinment was the mens RR, the actual race itself and the outcome. Not my choice if victor. Scateboarding in 2016, why not it will give those dedicated boarders something to go at.

Sam August 12, 2012 at 8:08 pm

I agree that the women’s road race was much more exciting, despite thinking I would prefer the mens the womens was much the better race.

Mick August 12, 2012 at 6:04 pm

I can’t wait to see what the sticker program for skateboards looks like. Will the UCI insist on steel wheels ala skateboarding back in the Merckx era… what will they impose as “uniform regulations… The Chaps from Aigle overseeing skateboarding has so much entertainment potential…

Tom August 12, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Colombia is in the table twice

Michael August 12, 2012 at 8:07 pm

I miss the endurance track events, so if they kill the omnium they need to add a scratch and points race, rather than another medal where it feels like those with the best funding will always win.

dlouis August 12, 2012 at 9:21 pm

As Tony Hawk said, “The Olympics need us more than we need them.” I suspect that skateboarding will have similar problems as snowboarding in regards to a foreign sport federation having control of the events for the Olympics and yearly events.

I believe there will be a Terje Hakkonsen style boycott from more than a few high profile skaters and more egg in the face of McQuaid.

Anonymous August 12, 2012 at 10:03 pm

including bmx + skateboard street, vert & flatland competitions would be incredible. Considerably more worthy of attention than rhythmic gymnastics and synchronised swimming imo.

hard to image the competitors not relishing a chance to get an olympic medal either.

but that sort of misses the point. these are well established sports and I don’t feel they need the olympics as much as my 2 much-maligned yet still very skillful examples above do.

I wouldn’t be sorry to see them included but ultimately they probably have as much place as football, tennis, basketball and golf do. not a lot

Anonymous August 12, 2012 at 10:06 pm

or road cycling for that matter. not that I’m complaining

Another Dave August 12, 2012 at 10:05 pm

What the Bjeebers has McQuaid and the UCI got to do with Skateboarding they have no jurisdiction over this sport, yes it should be in the Olympics and I’m an oldie, fantastic sport to watch.
Synchronised swimming what a joke and we lost the ‘Kilo’ on the the track for garbage like that.

Sidamo August 13, 2012 at 12:05 am

No, you didn’t. You lost the kilo for BMX. Synchro has been in the Olympics since ’84.

In fact, in ’84 there was no such thing as track for women at the Olympics, so really you lost the kilo because track cycling was so sexist :-)

If the UCI had introduced a women’s program back when games organisers weren’t too concerned at the number of athletes attending, track would probably still have a full program today.

matthew August 12, 2012 at 10:12 pm

was at the mountain biking today, best race I’ve seen in ages! 3 guys going at it hammer and tongs for nearly 90 minutes with the gold being decided on the last climb of the last lap. Great spectacle on a course that looked far better than you would expect for Essex.

For Rio – swap the omnium for the 4000 pursuit, then Sir Bradley can pick up an other gold :-)

David N. Welton August 12, 2012 at 11:11 pm

Skateboarding and the UCI? There have got to be some great doping jokes there…

Alex Simmons August 13, 2012 at 4:24 am

Some substances are only prohibited in competition.

Matt August 13, 2012 at 5:10 pm

You certainly need to be toking something pretty strong to understand either one of them.

Bundle August 13, 2012 at 12:22 am

Whatever happened to the 100km TTT for national teams… :(

Baroudeur Billy August 13, 2012 at 12:56 am

Instead of having a single road race that may or may not favor a certain type of rider, why not have two road races – one a flat stage and one mountain? It seems odd to me that the road racers get one shot at a medal (or two if they’re super TTers) whereas the track guys get close to a week’s worth of medal opportunities.

matthew August 13, 2012 at 6:57 am

Or a 2 week stage race running the length of the games?

Baroudeur Billy August 14, 2012 at 4:37 am

That would be awesome – but the Vuelta might cry foul.

Baroudeur Billy August 13, 2012 at 1:08 am

On the topic of British riders’ “secret advantages” (which I missed when it was posted a few days ago) – yes, the UCI definitely should make sure competitors’ clothing and bikes are as uniform as possible. The competition needs to be about the riders, not what they have on (or under) their bodies. (Note: I’m not saying that this specifically is why SKY/Britain have done so well, but just that it shouldn’t even be in the discussion.)

Swimming came to this same conclusion a few years ago when a new kind of high-tech swimsuit fabric was dramatically reducing water resistance and causing every kind of world record to be crushed. FINA recognized that swimwear was becoming much too big of a factor and banned the new material, requiring everyone to go back to textile swimsuits. Now when a record is set, we know it’s about the swimmer’s efforts, and not just his/her suit.

Chromatic Dramatic August 13, 2012 at 1:23 am

Everyone wants to have their sport at the Olympics. Hell, even Golf and Formula 1 want to be there…

Skateboarding? On the face of it, I’d say “why”? Seems odd. But is it much different from some other sports, which are about technical execution of some very exceptional skills? Just because you don’t dig it, doesn’t mean it is a legit or worthy inclusion in the Olympics, especially when you compare it against other sports that are already there.

For me, the first criteria for inclusion in the sport should be the universality of the sport. Is it played by both men and women? Is it played widely around the world, or at least able to? Tick those boxes and I’m happy for it to be included, provided it already isn’t a massive sport in its own right.

Eg. Tennis. Really? Should it be included? IMO no. It is only a relatively recent inclusion (probably more down to the whole professionalism thing), but who really follows tennis in the Olympics. Who cares?

To a certain extent I’m a bit like this with the road and TT at the Olympics. Don’t get me wrong, they are a sport I always watch, but I’m not nearly as excited by it as the track events (which I never watch outside of the Olympics).

But the problem the Olympics has, is size. Everyone, in every sport would love to compete at the Olympics, but for practical financial reasons, not everyone can, which means a cap on athlete numbers. So if Skateboarding is included, which other sport should be dropped?

For me, start with, synchronised swimming, and rhythmic gymnastics (any sport which ‘requires’ makeup should be banned), tennis, and dare I say it, football (no one really gives a damn about it at an Olympic level)).

Tricky Dicky August 13, 2012 at 2:01 am

Can I add the following to the list of “sports” to be canned?
- horse dancing (aka dressage)
- at least three or four swimming events (it is plainly absurd that one guy or girl can race across seven or eight events) and some related relays (running backwards, hopping and then skipping relay anyone?)
- a few of the kayak combinations
- speed walking (an absurd sport, riddled with cheating (both technical and doping-related))
- a few of the shooting combinations seem a bit OTT too
Even if just froma “business” perspective, would any of these really have an adverse effect on the Olympics budget? Doubt it.

SilverSurfer8 August 13, 2012 at 4:40 am

Amen on getting rid of walking-hello! You walk when you’re in no hurry, you run for speed. Seems like a no-brainer. Just run, dufus! Skateboarding should be in Olympics. Those guys spend hours and hours refining their amazing skills. Kinda like gymnastics, but way cooler! It makes sense for Olympic events to change over time. Old sports fall out of favor, new sports emerge to replace them. That’s the way of the world, and the Olympics should reflect that.

Chromatic Dramatic August 13, 2012 at 5:18 am

Agree. With time the sports should change. Rugby (a passion of mine) is a good example. It was an original Olympic sport. Then it got cut. Now it is back, but in the 7s format, which is a much more level playing field than the 15s version.

Chromatic Dramatic August 13, 2012 at 5:16 am

Generally agree.

As to some swimming events being culled. Yes you’re right one one level, maybe there should be some cuts, but this won’t have a massive effect on the numbers of people competing (as you say, there are many double ups in numbers), and the events themselves can be completed in relatively short periods of time.

Oh, the the MAIN reason, is the US is good at swimming. The US, and it’s broadcaster is the #1 market for sponsorship / advertising. That will always mean swimming is relatively protected from changes. Proof that swimming is #1 was the US broadcasters insistence (at Beijing Games), that finals be held in the morning, to better suit US telecast times.

But yeah, ditch some kayaking, and speed walking. I’m a bit ambivalent about shooting. Personally not in to it, but it is relatively easy for other countries to take up.

Tricky Dicky August 13, 2012 at 6:35 am

OK, how about combining some events then? Horse dancing with Archery in “real” knockout format (ie. a duel). Reckon the horses would really dance then.

Take your point on the swimming but it bugs me when Phelps is called the “greatest EVER athlete” when the medals just seem cheaper to come by.

Baroudeur Billy August 14, 2012 at 4:21 am

Well, they’re cheaper to come by in the sense that you could theoretically get a bunch in each Olympics, but keep in mind that he’s got way, way more medals than any other swimmer ever has, too.

It’s hard to compete in as many events as he has in one week. He had much less rest/preparation time between races than all of his competitors, because none of them did as many races.

Good Grief August 13, 2012 at 5:06 am

“…but who really follows tennis in the Olympics. Who cares?” This sums up my opinion of the Olympics as a whole. It’s full of obscure sports that require zero speed, strength or endurance.

Unless the sport includes bikes or fit women … Just turn it off.

Chromatic Dramatic August 13, 2012 at 5:20 am

Ha ha! I actually like watching some of those ‘obscure’ sports! Eg European Handball (coming from Australia, it is obscure). Totally awesome, and just wish I had Pay TV so I could watch games in full, rather than five minute snippets here and there.

Mark August 13, 2012 at 4:01 am

UCI should be pushing Downhill Mountainbiking for inclusion into the Olympic Program. They govern it already, it’s judged by time, it’s a very new sport, it appeals to a different demographic, and it provides a foil to the Cross Country Mountain Bike Race. The British would end up winning a couple more medals though, given their strength in the discipline.

Tom August 13, 2012 at 7:49 am

If you don’t win by scoring more points, going faster, or jumping higher or longer its not a “sport” its an “exhibition”. Only sports should be in the Olympics. Although people who partake in exhibitions may be talented athletes, if the winner is decided by judges they have no place in the Olympics. If Olympic skateboarding is about who can get from point A to point B faster or jump higher or longer bring it on, otherwise leave it at home.

another Tom August 13, 2012 at 10:59 am

Can’t see how skatboarding would be much different to boxing or diving, in that there are set rules for how points are scored, but you still need a panel of judges since awarding the points still comes down to personal judgement. I would be hard to say that boxing and diving are not sports.

MTB August 13, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Sports decided by Judges are:
Boxing, Judo, Artistic Gymnastics, Rhythmic Gymnastics, Trampoline, Diving, Synchronised Swimming, Wrestling (Freestyle), Wrestling (Greco-Roman), Taekwondo, Weight Lifting and Dressage

Of those, there’s only a couple I would vote off – Synchro Swim and Rhythmic gymnastics and only because they are not ‘fair’ sports. ie Men cannot compete in them, that’s unfair, they should kick them out of the games.

Anonymous August 13, 2012 at 9:16 am

Waiting for McQuaid to bring NASCAR into the Olympics.
His reasoning for including skateboarding in the UCI– “They’re all related to wheels, they’re all related to bikes as such, and from that point of view cycling is the sport that can bring those disciplines in,” explained McQuaid.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/olympic_games/9436066.stm

grumpyoldman August 13, 2012 at 11:11 am

If I might demur with reference to dressage and possibly other equestrian events: if you have ridden anything bigger than a seaside donkey, you will know that controlling an unpredictable animal that weighs up to three quarters of a ton requires a high degree of fitness, balance, athleticism and co-ordination.

The ancient Greeks, and in modern times the Mongolians would have no problem with equestrian events been seen as athletic.

I suspect that some of the hostility to equestrian events is down to the fact that in the UK at least they are largely pursued by those considered to be ‘toffs’.

billy buster August 13, 2012 at 11:47 am

Excuse me for saying so, but it’s called ‘Horse racing’ and not ‘Jockey racing’ for a reason. The animal is the star/athlete.

grumpyoldman August 13, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Fair enough. But no one’s suggesting making the Cheltenham Gold Cup an Olympic event.

‘Dressage’ means ‘training’. It takes around 6 years to train a good dressage horse or show jumper, and that’s where the skill and athleticism of the human comes in.

I’ve ridden horses as well as bikes and I know that you have to be pretty fit for both.

Riding a horse is not like sitting in an armchair.

johnm55 August 13, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Whilst agreeing with all your points, the problem with equine sports of all descriptions is that the performance is at least 60% horse. This isn’t a problem when it comes to horse racing, but it is, in my opinion, when it comes to the Olympics. Perhaps a fairer way of doing it is the way it is done in the Modern Pentathlon, put all the horses into a pool and allocate them to the riders randomly, probably giving them a different horse for each round of the competition. That way the difference in the quality of the horses should even out to an extent.

Dave E August 13, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Sports is show business!
Cant wait for rugby 7′s! Pity the wendyball isn’t shrunk down to a 5 or 7 aside format for the Olympics!

Joseph August 13, 2012 at 3:18 pm

What specifically is it that people don’t like about the inclusion of the Omnium?

The criticism that it is ‘for beginners’ I don’t really understand. Is there a better measure of all-round endurance ability in the velodrome?

JJ August 14, 2012 at 12:13 pm

it’s not necessarily bad, but more the fact that its supposed to compensate for all the events that were axed like the individual pursuit, madison etc. Plus, a lot of the riders racing in the event won’t really be an all-round rider, but are only there because their event got cut (so its not exactly ‘best-of-the-best’ which isn’t what you want to see in the Olympics)

Ken August 13, 2012 at 3:27 pm

The UCI to oversee Olympic skateboarding? You’ve got to be kidding. The UCI does a lousy job overseeing, well, cycling!!! Surely, the UCI will find a way to take an exciting, acrobatic sport and make it boring.

hamncheeze August 13, 2012 at 8:12 pm

The problem with the omnium is that it was introduced and the gold standard events of the kilo and the IP were dropped (along with points and madison). IMO, the kilo and the IP are the two purest forms of bike racing and the efforts in terms of time are similar to staples like the 400m and 1500m running events. The kilo and IP had specialist riders and a long history in the Olympics, then they were dumped for a jack of all trades event that tries to make track cycling into the heptathlon or decathlon.

Bring back the IP and kilo and also the individual points race. Leave the madison behind, it was too complicated for the average fan. As for the other cycling disciplines, I watched BMX and tried to get into it but I was not captured by it as an Olympic sport. It has a heavy luck factor with the start, much like skier-X and boarder-X in the Winter Olympics. I think “luck” events are not really worthy, though one can argue any event requires some luck. As for MTB racing, I did not watch any this time but when the mens’ Olympic MTB race is 30 km and takes 1.5 hours, it is more like a cyclocross and does not even come close to representing the heritage of XC MTB racing. Honestly, the Olympic XC MTB is so watered-down it should be tossed in favor of downhill MTB.

Joseph August 13, 2012 at 10:11 pm

Thanks for the info regarding the introduction of the Omnium. I agree having the Points Race, IP and Kilo return would be preferable.

The XC MTB course (whilst quite open and fast) did have some very technical sections a big drop (the Leap of Faith). It didn’t look much like a cross course.

MattK August 13, 2012 at 9:17 pm

I have always found sports where “judging” was necessary to determine the victor a bit questionable. I don’t deny that Ice Skating and Gymnastics require and insane level of athleticism, but the judges have always made the sports sketchy. This year boxing was outed for corruption of both the judges and the referee and that sport has a very clear point system for judges. Sports like skateboarding, rely heavily on expert judges who can identify how sick a trick is, regardless of how it looks. In the X-Games this has become an issue, because spectators don’t understand that a move that looks spectacular can be relatively easy whereas a move that isn’t as showy can be astronomically more difficult.

I don’t agree BMX is a sport of this generation. It is a sport of my generation and even a lot of the top riders are my age (30s). While BMX was awesome, when I was a kid, most kids, I have talked to seem more interested in downhill or slalom MTB racing. They should have made BMX an Olympic sport 15-20 years ago, doing it now just shows how out of touch and old the Olympic committee is.

channel_zero August 13, 2012 at 10:21 pm

The UCI abandoned 4-cross for 2012 and replaced it with a bizarre short-course event that is about as meaningful to watch as BMX in 2012. There’s no surprise that The spectators disappeared from the TV shots. Again, the UCI blowing resources searching for a better made-for-tv bike race format.

I think the UCI will get glowing reviews for the XCO event and then continue to force the format down to the national federations. At the local level, those courses are booooring and will drive still more participants away from the sport. In Agile, they are discouraging participation in exchange for a good Televised racing format. That will kill participation, again.

the cycling fan August 13, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Before skateboarding they should introduce SpeedSkating (Inline) – SpeedSkating community has been fighting for an Olympic place for the past 20 years

Rich W. August 14, 2012 at 7:54 pm

Fruitbooting should never be in the Olympics. That “sport” is dead in all its various forms.

Bundle August 14, 2012 at 2:45 am

Generous funding for sportive performance is logically and empirically bound to end up in some doctor’s account.

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