It’s pretty clear that all Olypmic Gold Medals do not represent equal achievement so in my usual uninformed way I thought it would be fun to annoy a few people with this view.
My criteria are as follows:
- Is the Olympic Gold the pinnacle of that sport? Say au revoir to soccer, basketball, baseball, tennis and boxing
- Do conditions other than that of the athelete influence the outcome? Goodbye sailors and canoeists
- Is the outcome affected by the equipment used? Sayonara equestrianism and the modern pentaholon
- Does everyone compete together or are thy grouped? Exit stage left; judo, taekwondo, greco roman wrestling.
- Is the sport a real ‘world’ sport? The elimination round for beach volleyball and handball.
- Does every country that wants them have the facilities needed to train and perform? Cycling, fencing and rowing all drop out here.
- Does it comply with ‘citius, altius, fortius’ or is there some qualitative judgement involved? A sad departure for gymnastics, diving and synchronized swimming.
That leaves archery, athletics, badminton, hockey, shooting, swimming, table tennis and water polo. No one would reasonably argue the mainstream credentials of archery, badminton, hockey, shooting (outside of Detroit), table tennis and water polo and that leaves athletics and swimming.
So where does the winner come from? Perhaps the tie-breaker is the percentage of the whole population that could plausibly compete? Here the giants of swimming might have to give way to track and field and then we get to the final decider and despite the all round prowess of decathletes it’s hard to look past the 100m to find an event in which almost all of us have had a go yet only Usain Bolt can claim the title ‘fastest person in the world’.