The Olympics is pure, about simple athleticism, where nationalistic politics are put aside and we all enjoy the quest for sporting perfection.
The NYTimes has a really cool Medal Count Tool, which shows the rise and fall of countries in the medal tally over the years.
Watch Australia – they get out-medalled (especially gold) by New Zealand in 1976, almost beaten in 1988, and it scary to see what happens afterwards. The Australian Government decided enough was enough and invested in the Australian Institutue of Sport.
As a result Australia went from 32nd highest medal taker in 1976 (the catalyst year), to 15th in 1988, 9th in 1992, 5th in 1996 and 4th 2000 (at home) and also in 2004. Only giants China, Russia and USA are ahead of them now, and it’s unlikely that any of them will relinquish a place this year.