Let's Be Fair

Iran's Olympic medal ranking


Let's Be Fair
by Dr. Rahim

Every four years, at the conclusion of the Olympics, many nations feel proud, ecstatic and joyous, and many others, like Iranians, feel down, dejected and poignant. Many observers, including this author, believe that the ranking of Olympics medals IS NOT a FAIR indication of countries' focus on sports, and on training athletes. It's after all, logical to assume that a country like China with 1.3 billion "human" resources, produces more athletes, and among them "Super" Medal-wining World-class athletes, than a country like Jamaica with only 3 million inhabitants.  

There are several ways to create a more "fair" ranking of countries' true athletic-development abilities and attention to competitive sports. The two which I believe make the most sense, are “medals per capita,” and “medals per dollar of GNIPC” (gross national income per capita), because countries need "people" and "money" to train athletes.  

So out of curiosity and in fairness to smaller countries like Iran, I went ahead and divided the "total" number of medals each country received in 2008 Olympics, by (1) that country’s population (in millions); and by (2) that country's GNIPC (in thousand dollars) based on 2007 data from World Bank. A summary of results are listed below:

A. The ranking of “total” medals in the 2008 Olympics:

U.S. (110); China (100), Russia (72), Britain (47), Australia (46), Germany, France, Korea, Italy, Ukraine, Japan, Cuba, …Iran in the 60th place.

B. The ranking of medals per capita (per million people):

Bahamas (6.7), Jamaica (3.7), Slovenia, New Zealand, Norway, Australia, Cuba, Trinidad, Belarus (2-2.5), Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia, Mongolia, Denmark, Croatia, Slovakia, Hungary, Netherlands (1-1.5), Azerbaijan (0.9), …, U.S. (0.4), .., Japan (0.2), …, Turkey (0.1), …, China (0.08), …, Morocco (0.06), …, Iran in 60th place (0.03), meaning we produced one medal-winning athlete per every 34 million Iranians! While in Cuba they produced one medal for every 400,000 Cubans.

C. The ranking of medals per GNIPC (gross national income per capita) per thousand dollars:

China (42), Ethiopia (35), Kenya (20), Zimbabwe , North Korea, Ukraine, Russia, Uzbekistan, Belarus (5-15), Nigeria, Cuba, Mongolia, Georgia, India, Jamaica, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhtsan, Brazil, U.S. (2-5), …, Iran in the 44th Place, (0.6), meaning we produced two medal-winning world-class athletes for the $3500 Gross national Income of each Iranian (per year), whereas in Ethipia they produced 7 medals for the $200 per year of their GNIPC.

So sober up, fellow Persians! It looks like it's INDEED a fair statement to say that Iran "really" failed in this Olympics, both versus populated and large nations like China, and in comparison with poor nations like Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, etc.  

But let's look at the countries who do well in the Olympics:

Bahamas, Jamaica, Trinidad, Cuba: These Caribbean islands have lush nature, rough weather, reasonable national incomes, and people with healthy diets and rugged lifestyle, and often produce many athletes in track and field, and other areas.

Australia: Open waters around them, open land space inside, rugged train, welcoming immigration policies (good gene pool), and Aussies’ love of nature helps this nation to produce strong athletes.

Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, Russia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Azerbaijan, …: The former Communist block and Eastern European countries, similar to Cuba, still treat athletic development as a national priority and pride, and spend relatively high budgets in training world-class athletes.

Denmark, Greece, Norway, Netherlands, Germany, U.S., …: High national incomes and good genetic factors help the Western European countries and the U.S. in training world-class athletes.

Middle Eastern and Islamic countries often do not do well in Olympics. If we do not count Azerbaijan and Turkey in this group, occasional medal winners are Morocco, Iran, Egypt and Indonesia. Countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Malaysia with large populations, or Arab nations with large per capita incomes, often do not win ANY medals. This is perhaps a reflection of some weather and genetic factors, as well as the low priority of competitive sports and athletic development in these countries.

You can check other views on kodoom.com.



Gol Dust's logic

by Anonymous_babak (not verified) on

"Their women have range of beauties unlike any other nation."

what a cheap comment .... is that the reason you make trips to china, to discover those "ranges"?? can you imagine if a non-iranian pointed to the beauty of the culture of iran only because of the "range of beauty" among iranian women

you might not be a racist, but you sure are a sexist ....

Had you gotten it right, you would have pointed to the fact that a reason why Iran doesn't do as well, is the lack of sport particpation among women in Iran .....


Aghaye Manteghi, I was

by SR (not verified) on

Aghaye Manteghi,

I was responding to your comments that "genetic factors" had a favorable effect on the success rate of athletes from certain parts of the world, yet in your rebuttal you paint your previous argument as having been a mere objective survey of how Iran stacks up against other nations in utlizing sporting talent. This cannot be if you invoke the genetic "wild-card". Your assertions in each post contradict, and thereby fail to stand up against the weight of each other.

Aghaye Aziz,

You seem to have ignored the fact that a Normal Curve cannot account for numerous variables at work in the "production" and levels of success achieved by elite athletes, affected by Financial or Circumstantial factors as well as access to adequate training resources, etc,. There is no such thing as a level playing field.


To Gol Dust

by Grand child of Chian Kai Chek (not verified) on

you do sound racist, and here is another reason: When you claim that "I love blacks" that by itself is a racist remark. You love every black regardless of who each and everyone of them might be and all the ones that you do not know.

On the other hand, you think Chinese are not as appealing and other racist comments that you attempted to make. Well that also shows you are racist.

Sometimes the best way to defend yourself is to stay silent. Your silence will reduce your exposure.

I happen to think that Chinese are very capable people. They seem polite and humble. Their women have range of beauties unlike any other nation. These are the few hundreds and or thousands I have met or seen so far. And I have been to China twice.

Stereotyping in general makes us look bad. Take a trip to China and you will be a changed man.

Take care


Ok Mr. Manteghi I'll try to make my point as you suggested

by gol-dust on

So it doesn't get deleted. My point is if you really look at the meaning of traditional sports in the olympics chinese didn't do as well in medal counts compare to their 1.4 billion population as other nations such as jamaica or Bahamas did! Those little poor island countries did much better since they have much better budwiser horses than china! Weightlifting, wrestling, running dash and hurdles, etc. chinese got no medals! They got medals in gymnastics, diving, ping pong, badminton etc...where natural physical strength is not as important! Another word, they would do very badly in a tradtional olympics, and the medal count alone where all medals weighted equally is not the best way to determine who did better! As the value of PHD shouldn't be the same for chemistry, and urban planning, poltcal science, music, etc. 

What I said in my deleted article was that even though Iran didn't get the medals due to economic and political situation, we have the talents to do well in the future. I said not to forget that the strongest man in the world is an iranian! Iran can do much better in medals where to be a champ you should be born a champ. Chinese on the other hand do well in medals where it requires dedication and determination.  Is this still politically incorrect and racist on a site that claims NOTHING IS SACRED? Unless, it was meant only when attacking IRI and islam! Let's see what happens to this one!  


My Reply

by Manteghi (not verified) on

To SR, Jalil Bahar and Gol-Dust: The article says:
"Iran "really" failed in this Olympics, both versus populated and large nations like China, and in comparison with poor nations like Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, etc."
meaning Iran DID fail against even poor nations because they were more productive in using their low incomes in training medal-winning athletes than Iran.

To Aziz: If we assume the top 0.1% of each country's population is "equally" medal-worthy to the the top 0.1%% of other nations, and we enter these top people in the final pool of medal-worthy people (each with random and equal chance of success), we will have a lot more Chinese than Iranians or Cubans. So if the chance of a medal is equally distributed among the medal-worthy pool, China will have a lot more chances!

To Gol-Dust: Tone down the emotion, passion and anger! and make your statements like Westerners do, indirect and with caution, and they will sound less racist. As Benjamin Franklin says:
"A Man in a Passion rides a mad horse."


Poitically correct is only welcome here!

by gol-dust on

What kind of a democracy is that if we cannot debate any facts/opinion? You have your opinion and I have mine! How about debating the facts or opinion instead of just accusing people of being racist! What is racist anyway? I love blacks and I can prove it! Am I racist? What is so racist about saying chinese physically are not as strong or attractive? Koreans are strong because they are related to mongols. Why is that racist?

So I should never say anything against China/chinese and let them take over the world, since we are being the good guys? Are Chinese racists? You might say, no, but I say they definitely are! For your information they are slowly taking over Iran too! It might be hard for you believe, but I have nieces and nephews who are 1/2 chinese whom I love. They agree with me,  but they think I shouldn't say it! We lose our freedom of speech when we try self censor! You are not god judging me and calling me racist!

Jahanshah Javid


by Jahanshah Javid on

Mr/Ms Gol-dust, you complain of censorship? Yes, your comment about the Chinese and especially their women being genetically inferior was deleted. That kind of blatant racism will not be tolerated here. The Chinese are no different than any other human being on this planet. If you believe in God, we are all equal in his eyes. Or how about Sa'di's famous saying "bani adam azaye yekdigarand"?


divide it

by Karim Shirehee (not verified) on

If you divide the number of drug addicts in Iran by the number of medals we won, you will see that we have a much better ranking in the world, than one might expect.

We just need to make sure we increase opium consumption during the next four years and that is really the responsibility of the British Embassy to make sure we continue to follow the line of Imam and Freemasoner's goodwill!


Censorship on this site is amazing!

by gol-dust on

here they complaint about Iran having censorship! At the same time the editor of this site deletes any comments he doesn't like! Look at this one to disappear like my last two as soon as he notices it! Amazing! That's why I have no hope for Iran!

Jalil Bahar

No Spin Can Hide Mullah's Failures

by Jalil Bahar on

The simple facts are that Iran has 'averaged' 3.5 medals per olympics - and under the Mullahs Iran's international standing in virtually any international sphere has dropped. Its a legacy of failure, incompetence, mismanagement, ....

If you run percapita analysis, or any other analysis ... Iran has systematically dropped over the past 30 years.

This is simple objective truth.


Statistics,Genetics, misapplied

by Aziz (not verified) on

The article contains factual errors.
Statistics: The "ability" of the extreme outlier of a normal distribution is not sensitive to the size of the population. That is to say there is no predictable difference between the inherent abilities of the top 10 athletes drawn from a nation of 10 million or 100 million.
Genetics: Adaptation to a uniform natural environment exerts a preferential selection force over time. The proposition that a people's genetic make up favors a particular sport that correlates to its natural setting needs careful study and proof. The article confuses assumptions with conclusions, taking great leaps of fancy with no basis in fact.


I find it hilarious

by SR (not verified) on

that you mention "good genetic factors" as being part of the reason why European countries do well, whereas you don't for nations that are far less developed, and have far less financial resources and infrastructure to spend on sports, i.e. Ethiopia, Kenya, Jamaica, Morocco (who you incorrectly placed in the category of unsuccesful sporting countries. Don't follow Track & Field much, do you?) etc.,.

It should also be noted that Ethiopia, a nation that has collected multiple Gold Medals in Track at every Olympics since 1960, has ONE (run-down)track facility in the WHOLE COUNTRY.

It's far more reasonable a leap of logic to make that genetic factors play a role in Carribbean and African nations, yet resources and technology are what allow Western Nations to compete, per your own example of ex-Soviet bloc nations, of many different ethnic backgrounds, succeed due to a heavy emphasis on sporting competition, primarily because it was a non-violent and vicarious acting-out of aggression and superiority between the Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War.

It's also important to note that many primarily Islamic countries have had little to no background in organized sport, (much less any sort of physical activity not relegated to laborers) until very recently. Classicists in the West began to emphasize Physical fitness and the value of sport via their studies of the Ancient Greeks (hence the 1896 re-incarnation of the Olympic Games), while African poverty, slavery and (arguably) "genetic factors" have paved the way for the Black man to put to use his frequently burden-bearing body & mind to use in the world of Athletics.

Wake up, we all toe the same line, it's just how we're running the race.


Very True, BUT

by Imam-Ali Habibi Fan (not verified) on

Dear Dr., thanks for the good analysis, but you forgot some very important factors contributing to an athlete's ability to beat other world-class athletes and win medals:

- Practicing in clean, non-polluted areas. Most of those countries that you listed have low levels of pollutions, at least in areas athletes exercise.

- Good morale and ethics. You rarely see Afghani, Indian or Pakistani athletes because of the corruption and bad morale in their countries, and the role of nepotism "Parti-Bazi" and "Band-bazi" and "Zoor-Gooyi" in these countries.

- Spirituality and sportsmanship: Imam-Ali Habibi and Gholamreza Takhti won two gold medals for Iran in 1956 Melbourne Olympics. The number one factor shared by those athletes, in their own words, was their belief in God and being spiritual, humble and generous souls. The true "Mardanegee" carries a lot of weight.

So until we clean our atmosphere in Iran (air they breathe and the political/social one), and until our athletes act and think like Takhti and Habibi again, I doubt money or population will do much. Remember, Habibi and Takhti did not receive expensive training and yet, to everyone's surprise in "those days," often beat their Russian or American rivals in a matter of seconds! "These days" we need more "Pahlevan" everywhere.