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“Fiji’s real medal position at Rio Olympics”

22/08/2016

Fiji’s real medal position at Rio Olympics

With only one medal at Rio, it is understandable that Fiji will be ranked around 72 in the world (really joint 63 with more than a dozen other countries) by “Total Medals” won (as of 21/8/2016).

But that is surely not doing Fiji justice.

Any sensible person knows that the number of medals won by any country usually depends on total population, how rich the country and its sports facilities are (Gross Domestic Product), the range of sports played and medals per sport, the numbers of athletes sent to the games, the “sporting culture”, individual brilliance and the “host country” effect.

Usually, the larger the population, the more athletes there are in particular sports, the better the chances of winning (forget India).

Usually, the higher the GDP, the more is spent on sports facilities (athletics tracks, swimming pools, coaches), and the better the sports performance (forget India).

Usually, the more sports are played, the higher the chances of medals: one cannot expect poor land-locked African countries to win any great number of swimming medals.

Usually, “sports culture” is built up over decades, usually because of the wealth devoted to the sports, and the support of governments.  The communist countries (Soviet Union, Russia, China) have long recognized the importance of sports in establishing status in international politics.

Taking account of these variables significantly, and fairly, improves the rankings of small poor countries like Fiji or Jamaica or Grenada.

With the help of some websites here and there, I have previously done such exercises for the 2012 Olympics (Islands Business, 16 August 2012), the Commonwealth Games (Fiji Times, 16 August 2014) and the South Pacific Games (Fiji Times, 25 July 2015).

But the Fiji Times reader can go to this website today, which does all the hard work for you:

http://www.medalspercapita.com

This website gives you tables and rankings by Total Medals, Gold Medals, Medal Points (4 for Gold, 2 for Silver and 1 for Bronze), and medal or medal points per capita and per GDP.

By Total Medals

As of 21 August 2016, this website gives the Medal Tally Table that everyone in the world usually sees, with Fiji nowhere to be seen:

By medals

This ranking does not give a fair comparison for small countries like Fiji.

By the fairer criteria: Population, GDP, Medal Points

This table here brings together the positions of US, China, Great Britain , Australia, NZ, Jamaica and Fiji by the fairer criteria (as at 9 am 21 August 2016):

Every medal should be counted and not just gold medals.

Gold medals should be worth more than Silver and worth more than Bronze: the website medalspercapita.com (which attributes this points scale to New York Times) assumes that gold is worth 4 points, silver 2 points and bronze 1 point.

Rank by criterion

Fiji is an impressive 6th according to Weighted Medals Per Capita.

Fiji is 3rd  by Weighted Medals per GDP.

Of course, absolutely outstanding is Jamaica by all the criteria.

Also absolutely outstanding is NZ which beats Australia by all the fair criteria.

US with is massive GDP does not do well despite having the highest number of Total Medals.

China with its massive 1400 million population does not do well at all, despite its large number of total medals.

The future for Fiji

Students can do the calculations from the numbers on the website medalspercapita.com what would have been Fiji’s position had we just won another Olympics medal. We won’t be first or second (as Grenada and Bahamas will still be better than us). But we would be much higher.

But what can we win another medal in?  I suggest to Fiji’s Ministry of Sports and Education that Women’s Rugby could be that priority area for us (if they can fix up the problems of Fijian girls lack of involvement in sports, and other related problems).

Who knows, Fiji (with the assistance of Australia, NZ and even smaller countries like the Cook Is) could also lobby to get netball into the Olympics, given that basketball is there already.

Fiji sports and PACER Plus

The Fiji Government should also ask why Jamaica, Trinidad, Bahamas and Grenada are so successful in the Olympics, in contrast to countries like Fiji and the Solomon Islands.

They will find that one important factor is the very rich relationships in sports and movement of sports people between the Caribbean countries and the richer developed countries of United States, Canada and Great Britain.

The Pacific countries, in  contrast, have not had the same enriching relationships with Australia and NZ in any of the Olympic sports. Just as they do not have the enriching relationships in rugby Super 14, soccer or netball.

I would suggest that the Fiji Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trades, in their negotiations over Pacer Plus, place the movement of sports persons to Australia and NZ as high on our agenda as is the movement of goods, services and capital.

I would suggest to the governments of Australia and NZ that they also place concessions in this area to the Pacific countries as high on their agenda as is their concern (verging on paranoia) about being displaced in the Pacific geo-politics by China and Indonesia.

But that might be asking too much either of the myopic Pacific countries, or of Australia and NZ.

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