Q: The Washington Post and other media outlets are keeping careful count of the number of medals the United States and other countries are winning at the Winter Olympics. Should so much attention be focused on the medal count? Is winning gold, silver or bronze a fair measure of Olympic success? What about the athletes who work for years to get to the Games, yet have no shot at winning a medal?
Do medals matter? Absolutely -- how else can we measure the performance of the world's elite athletes? Every day, young people around the globe are making sacrifices so they can concentrate on their performance, so they can become Olympians. It takes hard work and dedication to achieve that level of athleticism. Medals are their reward.
Bronze is not the same as silver, and silver is not the same as gold, as I'm sure victorious American skier Bode Miller will be happy to explain. He's won all three. Or you could ask the American hockey team how much the gold medal influences their motivation when they play.
Medals don't just have value to the individuals, however; keeping count of medals by country is a natural byproduct of the Olympics. It allows countries to feel national pride and win some bragging rights when their country does well. Some countries use the Olympic games as a way to fuel national spirit.
The history of the Olympics has never been divorced from international politics. Indeed, the Olympics have been a venue for nations to show their superiority through achievements in sports. Nazi Germany's dominance of the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin remains an extraordinary example. Throughout the Cold War years, the Soviet Union and the United States famously vied for the most Olympic gold medals. Now, the communist Russian Federation trails Germany, Norway, Korea and Austria in 2010 Olympic medals.
For Olympic athletes, there is honor in competing. But it does not compare to the joy, honor and other rewards that come with winning a medal.
Posted by: gershwin2009 | February 28, 2010 2:25 PM
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