BY VERNON DAVIDSON Executive editor - publications email@example.com
THE official medals table published after the London Olympic Games shows that the United States topped the pack with a total 104 medals — 46 gold, 29 silver and 29 bronze. China was second with 38 gold, 27 silver and 23 bronze for a total 88, while Great Britain & Northern Ireland's 29 gold, 17 silver and 19 bronze (65 medals) guaranteed the hosts third place, even though the Russian Federation ended with 82 medals — 24 gold, 26 silver and 32 bronze.
That picture, however, changes dramatically when the medal count is measured against population, per capita GDP and Purchasing Power Parity (PPP).
Local scientist Dr Dennis Minott explains that PPP is a relative economic measure for comparing living standards across countries.
A World Bank definition is more detailed and technical: "A purchasing power parity between two countries — A and B — is the ratio of the number of units of country A's currency needed to purchase in country A the same quantity of a specific good or service as one unit of country B's currency will purchase in country B.
"PPPs can be expressed in the currency of either of the countries. In practice, they are usually computed among large numbers of countries and expressed in terms of a single currency, with the US dollar most commonly used as the base or 'numeraire currency'," the bank says.
Four years ago, after the Beijing Olympics, Minott — founder of university access programme A-QuEST — and one of his former charges,
Rana Smalling, first investigated this question and published their findings in the Jamaica Observer.
That exercise showed that Jamaica, with 11 medals — six gold, three silver and two bronze — topped those Games, while Mongolia, which won four medals (two gold and two silver), placed second and Cuba finished third, having won 24 medals (two gold, 11 silver, and 11 bronze).
Track and field powerhouse the United States were ranked 70th on that list, despite winning 110 medals, and China, whose athletes always deliver at the Olympics, were ranked 54th.
Since then, Minott and his team of researchers have produced what they have labelled Blanket Olympic League Tables (BOLTs) by applying the same formula, that includes weighted medal scores, to other Olympic Games going back to the XXV Olympiad in 1992 hosted by Barcelona, Spain.
Over the past two weeks, Minott and one of his former A-QuEST students, Sheree Bent, turned their investigative eyes on the just-concluded London Olympics where Jamaica won a record 12 medals — four gold, four silver and four bronze — to place 18th on the overall
The scientists ranked Grenada, which won one gold medal, as number one on the BOLTs; Jamaica was ranked second; Mongolia, third; Georgia, fourth; with the remainder of the top 12 in descending order being North Korea, Armenia, Trinidad and Tobago, Moldova, Kenya, The Bahamas, New Zealand, and Cuba. (Table above)
Minott applies what he calls the 'World Olympic Winnings (WOW) Quotients' which recognises that some countries are able to draw from a larger pool of talent because of their population size, as well as the fact that other countries are more economically well off
and, as such, are able to invest more in sports.
He argues that when countries with large populations and financial resources such as the USA, Canada, China, Nigeria, South Africa, India, and Germany are compared with Cuba, New Zealand, Jamaica, Hungary, Ethiopia, Kenya, or The Bahamas, "the latter-named consistently emerge as the dominant countries [that] present us the authentic gladiator/warriors for clean, lean, and peaceful sports
in our era".