The London Olympics have been hailed as a great success by many of the athletes and fans who took part. But when it comes to the medals tally, some countries have clearly been more successful than others.
The USA, relegated to second in the final medal table by China in Beijing 2008, has won its first place back despite winning six fewer medals than four years ago.
The ‘most improved’ country in the medal table this year is the host delegation. Great Britain and Northern Ireland (essentially the United Kingdom but known during the Games as ‘Team GB’) picked up 18 more medals in total, with 65 medals compared to 47 in 2008. Its gold medal haul increased from 19 to 29. This comes as little surprise given that countries almost always performs better when they host the Games.
The next most improved country in the final medal count was Japan, whose tally of 38 is 13 more than in Beijing. Japan’s swimmers (11 medals) and its wrestlers (six medals including four Golds) made the difference this time round. As usual the Japanese also had success in Judo (seven medals).
In bronze position in the ‘most improved’ nation is Iran. Having won only two medals in Beijing, Iran’s athletes picked up 12 in London to record the country’s biggest ever collection of Gold, Silver and Bronze.
If hosting the Olympics helps a country win more medals, then that was always going to be bad news for China. Dominant at home in Beijing in 2008, China picked up 13 fewer medals this time round and lost first place in the final table.
Australia, traditionally a centre of sporting excellence, also endured something of a collective disappointment. A total of 35 medals (seven Golds), while still impressive for a country of 23 million people, is 11 fewer than in Beijing. ‘Just’ 10 medals in the swimming pool halves 2008’s swimming total and might cause some Australians to start thinking about reviewing its famously efficient sporting system.