Friday, 22 August 2008

Olympic spirit

olympic ringsPhoto from Flickr/JL08. Creative Commons licence.

You can't imagine anyone being unaware of the Olympic Games at the moment. The coverage seems incessant, nothing but medal counts, records broken, superlative after superlative.

China has 639 competitors participating, the USA 596. Some countries have a single athlete. Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world, has four.

Malawi runnersPhoto from Africa News

The country has sent 2 short distance runners, and two swimmers to the Games. The runners are Chancy Master and Lucia Chandamale, the swimmers Zarra Pinto and Charlton Nyirenda.

Malawi swimmers

Photo from Malawi's Daily Times.

Zarra Pinto, aged 14, first swam in a 50 metre pool just a few days before the Games started. There are no indoor pools in Malawi and only three swimming clubs. She trains four or five days a week, for an hour at a time.

So while we are applauding the wonderful results from Michael Phelps from the USA, with his 12,000 calories per day diet, or Rebecca Adlington from the UK who receives £12,000 a year funding from UK Sport, we should perhaps remember the efforts of the countries who just can't afford the same facilities.


  1. I always like to watch the parade of nations (as boring as that sounds... remember- geography geek) and see the people of all the different nations, particularly the small ones that might have less than a dozen competitors. Just the pure joy in their eyes, just happy to be there.

    Then the USA athletes come in and make complete asses of themselves, and in a way I feel embarrassed for my country.

  2. I so much agree with you! It seams like the world have forgotten the original Olympic spirit of equal opportunities. Malawi seams to have it though.

    And I am following too of course. Norway seams to achieve around 7 medals and for a country with almost 5 mill inhabitants, I'm happy :-)

  3. Good point, they all are deserving of high praise!

  4. Hear, hear re your last paragraph worth of comments.

    More re African participation in the Olympics: Must admit that I was surprised/shocked to see Zimbabwe being represented at the Beijing Olympics and by white as well as black athletes who have gone on to win medals to boot! Also, in a weird way, have to also admit to feeling a bit happy to be able to go against racialists who think that to be black automatically makes one a winner in the athletic events by pointing out that the likes of Tanzania have yet to win a medal at these Olympics... ;S

  5. You make excellent points. It makes one wonder how much those athletes could achieve if they had the same access to food, equipment and trainers as western countries.

  6. My country failed to win any titles despite having more infrastructures as compare to Malawi except for Badminton. LOL. I guess Asian athletes need to find sizes that will fit theirs and they have a long way to go to match Europe/US/African athletes. As for me, size does really matter :)

  7. Especially when you consider average life expectancy in some participating countries :

    Angola M 36.73, F 38.57,Av 37.63 has sent 3 teams to Beijing, 28 athletes plus, presumably staff on top).

    And of the countries to have so far won a medal South Africa (1 Silver) and Zimbabwe (1 Gold,3 Silver have average life expectancy of 42.45 and 39.5 respectively. As both these countries have parts of their population not as prone as the majority to starvation &/or Aids (f*ing colos) here are yet more stats :

    Afghanistan : Av life exp 43.77 has 1 Bronze
    Nigeria : Av Life exp 47.44 has 1 Silver & 2 Bronze
    Ethiopia : Av Life exp 49.23 has 3 Gold, 1 Silver and 1 Bronze

    I haven't dug into the Middle Eastern teams who have been busy 'buying' African athletes. Unlike USA's recent 'imports' the athletes stay home, just their nationality changes. May actually be better for 'trickle down' of facilities, who knows.

    PS Average life expectancy in Malawi is 42.98

    Will stop stat hounding now as eyes are crossed from comparing tables, plus coffee getting cold

  8. ...and look at Jamaica with two golds!

  9. @Redbeard, I didn't see the opening ceremony, so I don't know the incident you are referring to. All the same, I'm sure the US team is as passionate about being there as anyone else.
    @Renny, Go, Norway, go! That really is good for a country of that size.
    @Karen & Gerard, agreed!
    @YTSL I haven't been following the Games too much, so the Zimbabwe information surprises me too!
    @Renee, exactly! My son, when he was swimming competitively, was training more than the Malawi competitors are able to. The developing nations need a level playing field in more ways than one.
    @Is, I don't know which is your country, and your Blogger profile is private, so I can't find out or visit you :(
    @j - those are great stats! The progression Afghanistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia is remarkable.
    @Elaine, as far as I'm concerned, Jamaicans can do no wrong. I could sit and listen to their voices for hours on end. Superficial of me I know, but that accent is to die for! Why do you think I follow cricket? :)

  10. My better half, otherwise known as The Grouch, informs me that if you do a graph of Medals won over gdp and population it comes out as a straight line, with the exception of Australia who punch far above their weight given small population.

  11. Hi a. --

    Judging from ls' badminton comments, will wager that (s)he's Malaysian. Wading into the discussion some more: I really don't think it's a question of "Asian" vs "African", "European", etc. athletes by continental block. After all, for Asia, China, South Korea and Japan -- gee, doesn't it factor that one's huge and the other two are the two have developed economies, etc.? -- are up there in the medal rankings. Meanwhile, European countries without a single medal include Belgium and thought we had already slayed the "African" myth dead already?

  12. @j, I tried looking for more on this but the maths made my eyes glaze over. I may well be wrong, but I would have said that Japan might be off that straight line too, though in the other direction from Australia.
    @YTSL, no I'd agree that you can't lump the continental blocks together, and that ties in well with what j is saying. It seems to relate more to population and economy.

    There is an interesting chart (a pdf file) from Price Waterhouse Cooper which predicts the 2008 medals using a model taking population, income, and other factors into account. I haven't compared it in detail with actual results.

  13. Yeh, but you can guess who has ;-) Only for top 20 though.

    Of the medal winners Jamaica, Kenya & Ethiopia weren't predicted by PWC

    Of the predictions made by PWC Cuba,Hungary & Greece failed to live up to expectations.

    The top three are right
    Britain gained 5 places from predicted outcome, Korea 3, whereas France and Roumania both finished 3 places lower than expected, France 2.

    On the whole, spot on

  14. Sorry last stat should read Japan 2 (places lower than predicted) j

  15. I knew I could depend on you j!! Good work :)


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