If the olympics were won by talent, then China would probably win all the gold medals. They have over 1.3 Billion people. Just assume a normal distribution and there should be LOTS of great runners, swimmers, weight lifters and yes... ping-pong players. The fact that they don't win them all tells us something (I'm not sure what) about the impact of money and training facilities. I was looking for some statistics on population and gold medal performance (I don't think there is any honest statistics on the MONEY spent per athelete), and I came across a page from Punch, Nigeria's most widely read newspaper (It says so on the banner) that listed some interesting facts from the China Olympics which I have copied below. They had more, in fact, one for every American Gold medal, (36 if you weren't paying attention), but I found some more interesting than others.
It’s the first time since 1936 that a country other than the United States or the Soviet Union has led the medal count. Hmmm, does this mean the cold war IS officially over???
Per capita, China won one gold medal for every 25 million people in the country. The United States’ per capita rate was one gold medal for every 8.5 million. The tiny island nation of Jamaica, which won a staggering six gold medals in Beijing, had a per capita rate of one gold for every 450,000 residents. Had China won at that rate, the country would have earned 2,889 gold medals.
Six countries won their first ever Olympic medals: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Mauritius, Sudan, Tajikistan and Togo. Panama and Mongolia won the first gold medals in their respective histories (they had won other medals before, but never gold)
India has 17% of the world’s population. They won 0.31% of Olympic medals.
China: 19.8% of population, 10.4% of medals.
United States: 4.6% of population, 11.5% medals.
Jamaica: 0.041% of population, 1.15% medals.
Iceland was the least populous country to win an Olympic medal.
Pakistan was the most populous country not to win an Olympic medal (164 million residents, sixth-largest nation in the world).
More proof that boxing is dead in the United States: the country earned just one medal (a bronze) in the 12 boxing events.
From 1980 to 2008, Jamaica won three Olympic gold medals. In a span of six days in Beijing, Usain Bolt won three.
And finally, if Michael Phelps were a country of his own, he would have finished tied for 9th in the gold medal count, ahead of countries including France, Netherlands, Spain, Canada, Argentina, Switzerland, Brazil and Mexico.
A question of my own... Softball was eliminated from the summer Olympics because the US won it so steadily. Can we assume that ping-pong and diving may soon be on their way out? The sad truth is that the political legacy we leave around the world will impact our atheletes on the Olympic fields.