Once again, we are pleased to share our analysis of the Medals Index for the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. We know Canada won a record 29 medals, coming 3rd in total medals behind Norway (with 39) and Germany (with 31) and ahead of USA (with 23) and Netherlands (with 20). We have written about the Medals Index before (after 2014 and after 2010).
However, recognizing the inherent bias against team sports in the Medals Index (in individual sports there are multiple chances for a single athlete to win a medal while in team sports there is only a single chance for multiple athletes to win a medal) – we have once again calculated the NUMBER OF MEDALS GOING HOME WITH ATHLETES.
Given that these medals will be widely shared with family, friends, acquaintances, school children, youth athletes and the wider Canadian public, we believe this continues to be a good indicator of the public value of our country’s performance at an Olympic Games.
This year, sport management student and Brock University student-athlete Hannah Davenhill compiled the results for us. Hannah is also an international student from New Zealand and is delighted to report that her home country won two medals in PyeongChang! Here is Hannah’s list of ‘medals going home with athletes’:
You can see the full medal results summary here.
If our men’s and women’s curling teams had not been so disappointing, Canada would have cracked 100 in the number of medals going home with athletes, something we have never done before.
This semester I am teaching a 2nd year course in Sport Policy at Brock University – which is always tremendous fun to do in a Games year. I like to spend time on the Medals Index, which is a well-accepted measure of a country’s international sport performance. Many countries pursue medals aggressively, as it is widely perceived that winning medals benefits a country politically, ideologically and economically.
However, a Dutch research team led by Ivo Van Hilvoorde carried out a detailed study on the Olympic Medal Index and national pride. This work was published in the International Review for the Sociology of Sport (2010 45:87). The authors suggested that national pride is to a country what self-respect is to an individual: a necessary condition for self-improvement. They found that while the Medals Index is a convenient and valid measure of sporting success, its impact on national pride is relatively minor. National pride tends to be a stable characteristic of countries, which is only slightly and temporarily augmented by outstanding athletic performances.
The researchers did find that the narratives, or stories, related to athletic performance can have a far greater impact on national pride, unity and a sense of belonging. This would certainly align with my own experience. I will soon forget the numbers of medals, but the stories will stick with me for a long time. My students agreed. I shared with them my memorable moments from well before their time – like Silken Laumann getting her leg ripped apart just six weeks before the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 – yet pulling through to win a bronze medal. Or Sara Renner breaking a ski pole in her sprint doubles event with Beckie Scott at the Torino Olympics in 2006, and a Norwegian coach passing her a pole so that she and Beckie could win a silver medal, relegating Norway to a 4th place finish.
So to Team Canada, I will say THANK YOU for so many wonderful stories from PyeongChang! Thanks for the medals too.