The Park Place Economist


Xun Bian '05


The modern Olympics were conceived by their founder Pierre de Coubertin to be competition between individual athletes, not countries (IOC, 2000). The Olympic Spirit emphasizes participation rather than winning. In reality however, the success of a country’s athletes is held to be an important source of national prestige. By-country medal tables are widely published. A glance at Olympic history will immediately tell us that not all nations have an equal ability to win medals. In this past August, 199 countries participated in the Athens Olympics, and 124 countries did not win a single medal. On the other hand, the top ten winners collectively took home 514 medals, more than 50% of the medals available at the Athens Olympics. Therefore, a natural question to ask is why some countries are able to enjoy a great success in the Olympic arena, while others never have the chance to do so.