Thursday, 21 August 2008

The Other Russo-Georgian War

At the Olympic Games, Russia's haul of medals is much reduced this time, leaving them with it all to do in the last few days of competition. So far they've got 16 Golds and 50 medals in total, putting them in 4th place. Last time, in Athens, they ended with 27 Golds and 92 medals overall; in Sydney, there were 88 medals, of which 32 were for first place. The overfilled treasure chests of Soviet times - culminating in Seoul's 55 Golds and 132 medals - are a distant memory of sports superpower status.

But, in regional terms, Russia is still head and shoulders above its rivals by a long way. The next former Soviet state in the medals table from Beijing is currently Ukraine in 11th place with 5 Golds. And then comes Georgia, in 19th place, with 3 Golds and 3 Bronzes. The small Caucasian nation is being outgunned on the track, and in the pool and the gym just as comprehensively as it has been in Tskhinvali, Gori and Zugdidi over the past few weeks.

In war, it is only absolute power that matters: the small and vulnerable can take no comfort from their relative strength or bravery as they quake in the shadow of superior firepower and innumerable troops. At the Olympics, however, relative pleasures are permitted (whatever the tears of disappointed silver medallists might suggest to the contrary). A quick analysis shows that, person for person, Georgia has performed much better than its larger neighbour. With only 4.5 million of a population, the Georgians have won a gold medal for every 1.5 million people living there. Russia (population: 142.5 million) only gets one gold for every 9 million inhabitants. If Georgia performed as well as it has done and had a population as big as Russia's it would have won 95 Golds by now.

1 comment:

Andrew D said...

Don't discount the race for best per capita gold medals. This is serious business, and this time around New Zealanders are very happy to come out just ahead of Australia. And Georgia!

Good luck with the blog, you'll be happy to know that I found your book for sale in Christchurch while visiting my parents over the winter, you're famous.