A Review of Olympic Sports

Someone sent me this a long time ago and I thought now was a good time to publish it. I don't necessarily agree with it all but it is fun and interesting. If anyone knows where it came from please let me know, I'm very happy to attribute it. The original title was: Fool's Gold.

I love sport and I love the Olympic Games, but if the Olympic medal tally is to have any real meaning then Olympic gold medals must be handed out in proportion to the level of competitiveness in each particular sport, so that gold medals have the same value across all sports, and so that each gold medal is as difficult to win as the next. Clearly, at the moment, this is not the case. Running is, and always has been, the rawest and most competitive human endeavour, and most would agree that Track is the premier Olympic sport. Track has 26 gold medals awarded. Swimming, despite having approximately half as many athletes (and countries) competing, has 32. Something is wrong there. Things get worse when you look at Judo (14), Taekwondo (8), Wrestling (18), Fencing (10), Sailing (11), Kayak/Canoe (16), Diving (8), Boxing (11), Cycling (14), Rowing (14), Shooting (15) and Weightlifting (15). All of these sports are afforded far too many gold medals when compared with Track. This must change. The governing bodies of each of these sports are free to hand out as many gold medals as they like at their own world championships, but this is the Olympic Games. You’re not just competing against other shooters/wrestlers/fencers – you’re competing against world class athletes like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps and Paula Radcliffe. The stakes are just so much higher.

Changing lanes now, many punters would argue for the semi-sports (some are really just hobbies) like Archery, Badminton, Judo, Taekwondo, Shooting, Synchronised Swimming and Rhythmic Gymnastics to be excluded altogether. I'm not so sure. Certainly, these semi-sports need the Olympics more than it needs them. But the Olympics is their only true global forum and without Olympic exposure many of these semi-sports would just fall apart. I'm in favour of keeping the semi-sports - but we have to cut the gold medals right back to one or two per sport. In contrast to the semi-sports, the Olympics actually needs Track just as much as Track needs the Olympics. I don't think that could be said for any other sport. And don't think I'm beating up on Track's little brother, Field, either - not at all. But Track is the benchmark against which all other sports will be judged.

Now on to sports that don't need, and aren't needed by, the Olympics at all. These sports just have to go. Tennis is the obvious one. This madness has gone on long enough. Let's admit we made a mistake, drop tennis from the Olympics and never speak of it again. The number of gold medals awarded is not the issue here (if anything, four seems a little low); the issue here is that the Olympic Games are not the pinnacle of Tennis. Wimbledon is. Enough said. No more tennis. Other potentials in this category are soccer (World Cup) and road cycling (Tour de France).

Finally, some sports need to be dumped for the simple reason that they’re not sports at all. Table tennis is something you do with your mates when you're drunk. Trampoline and BMX are things you do when you're nine years old. And walking is something you do when you can't be bothered running. Based on these respective criteria, why not also introduce gambling, hungry hungry hippo and sitting as Olympic sports? Sorry, no. When push comes to shove, some sports (I use that term loosely) have got to go and the sports that remain should be awarded gold medals on a relative basis taking into account the following four factors:
  1. Level of competitiveness
  2. principles of 'faster, higher, stronger'
  3. Olympic connection (i.e. an Olympic gold medal should be the highest possible achievement in the sport)
  4. Objectivity (i.e. the athletes, rather than judges, should determine the result)

Sport

Current # of gold medals

Suggested # of gold medals

Rationale

Archery

4

2

In reality this is more of a hobby and Korea is pretty much the only country that takes it seriously. We'll keep it but it’s down to two golds - best male and best female.

Badminton

5

2

A hobby at best. Lucky to survive but desperately needs the Olympic forum. Best male and best female only thanks.

Baseball

1

1

Not really an Olympic sport but only one gold medal awarded so it doesn't upset the apple cart too much.

Basketball

2

2

Like most ball sports, it doesn't really matter at the Olympics but two gold medals is a good reflection of its standing.

Beach Volleyball

2

2

As above, two is about right. Great to watch too.

BMX

4

0

One of the least funny jokes in Olympic history. China originally wanted to introduce video games (seriously) as an Olympic sport for Beijing 2008. Thankfully the IOC pressed control-alt-delete on that idea, but BMX is only marginally better. Let's hope it never sees the five rings again.

Boxing

11

6

Eleven is too many and we all know it. And don't give me that weight division argument. Why don't we just introduce speed divisions for the 100m sprint? Boxing would be wise to take its six and keep its mouth shut.

Canoe/Kayak

16

4

Seriously - 16 gold medals for canoeing? What's next - Olympic camping? The Olympic spirit leans on me here so we'll keep it (as a charity case) but it's down to four - best male and female kayakers and best male and female canoers.

Cycling (road)

4

2

I wouldn't care if they dropped this one, and I don't think the cyclists would either. The Tour de France is the biggest prize in cycling and Olympic gold is barely an afterthought. Perhaps keep the time trial but it's on life support.

Cycling (velodrome)

10

6

Ten is too many. Who is Keirin? Is he Madison's brother? And why is there a small Chinese man riding a motorbike on the track? Security!!

Diving

8

4

The results in the subjective sports will never be as clear cut and unequivocal as those of the objective sports. Sack the synchronised diving and it looks about right.

Equestrian

6

4

Also a subjective sport. In this case I think four seems about right. Equestrian is very 'Olympic' and they love and respect the forum. For their sake, I hope they actually get invited to it next time instead of competing 2,000kms away.

Fencing

10

4

How did they get to ten in the first place? I did a little research and found out that there are actually three weapons in fencing (I was surprised too) - the foil, the epee and the sabre. And there are teams events as well. Italy and France won't like it but we're dropping the foil - it's really just a training weapon - and the teams events are gone too.

Field

16

12

Highly competitive and right up there in the pecking order. If Track is Batman, Field is Robin. But do we really need four throwing events - hammer, shot, discus and javelin? Drop one. I hope it's not the javelin though. It's so primal - reminds me of Neanderthals trying to spear a woolly mammoth. And the triple jump is gone too. If you were really that good a jumper you'd be in the long jump.

Gymnastics

14

10

Another subjective sport, but this one boasts easily the most outstanding athletes at the Olympic Games - full respect. But let's take a closer look. Men have six apparatus, women have four. Two overlap - floor and vault - so there are eight in total. The 'individual all around' event tells us that, just like Michael Phelps' eight events, there is not enough specialisation to warrant 14 gold medals. We could just give them four, but we'll give them ten because they bend the laws of physics and they're an original Olympic sport.

Handball

2

2

It would be pretty easy to drop this one, but they do love the forum. Perhaps we'll keep it but play the Denmark v Germany gold medal games on the first day and then boot them all out of the village.

Hockey

2

2

As per most ball sports - stay or go, no big deal. Two seems about right though.

Judo

14

2

Next thing you know we'll be giving away gold medals for nipple cripple. Part of me says drop it. But like most of the semi-sports and martial arts, we’ll give it a lifeline. Two golds - best man, best woman. Take it or leave it.

Marathon

2

2

Perhaps not as hotly contested as the 100m sprint, but this event is the heart and soul of the Olympic Games and part of me says the winner should receive three gold medals if the best of the world's four 46kg female Greco-roman wrestlers receives one.

Modern Pentathlon

2

2

I don't really know what to make of this event. A mixture of horse-riding, swimming, running, shooting and fencing. James Bond anyone? Just strange enough to keep. And two gold medals is not too offensive.

Rhythmic Gymnastics

2

1

We'll give you one but don't tell ballet or tap-dancing or they'll want one too.

Rowing

14

8

Huge rowing fan – incredibly tough sport and it's great to watch - but just like swimming and gymnastics there are far too many categories for a sport where they all do pretty much the same thing over the same distance. Pick a boat and get the very best out on the water thanks. And no more lightweights either.

Sailing

11

4

See rowing. I love sailing but you can't just keep building different shaped boats and asking for more gold medals. Pick a boat and get on with it.

Shooting

15

2

There are so many things wrong with this I don't know where to begin. Who shoots for Christ sake? 15 goal medals? Not in a million years. The Olympic motto is 'Faster, Higher, Stronger' - not 'most accurate with a 22mm air rifle over 50m in an indoor purpose-built stadium with no wind'. And when the winner is an overweight, 55 year old Ukrainian man with a limp that would almost qualify him for the Paralympics, you know you're not competing with the elite. It's actually an original Olympic sport so we'll keep it and give them two golds. I like the clay traps - best man and best woman.

Soccer

2

0

Soccer doesn't need the Olympics and the Olympics doesn't need soccer. All this "will his European club release him" and "is he going to make the trip" stuff makes me sick. If you're not crawling over your own mother to get to the Olympics then you shouldn't be there.

Softball

1

1

Apparently this sport is gone after Beijing anyway. One gold medal was never too offensive but I don't think we'll be mourning the loss of Softball.

Swimming (open water)

2

2

Two golds looks about right - one man, one woman, a 10km swim. It's the marathon of the water, though in reality not as competitive as the real marathon. Keep it.

Swimming (pool)

32

20

I love swimming but it is nowhere near as competitive as Track and there are too many categories over each distance. Let's dump the two strokes that are slower than walking - backstroke and breaststroke. Either that or Track should also have four strokes per distance - running forwards, running backwards, skipping and hopping. If that was the case Carl Lewis might have won 12 gold medals in 1984.

Synchronised Swimming

2

1

People love to take the piss out of this event and for that reason I think we'd be lost without it. It's clearly not a sport but let's give it one gold medal for its novelty value.

Table Tennis

4

0

No. And no foosball either.

Taekwondo

8

2

Not a sport, a martial art. Just like Judo - two is plenty.

Tennis

4

0

Just like soccer. Tennis and the Olympics don't really like each other that much anyway so the break up should be quite amicable.

Track

26

26

The purest form of competition known to man - the running race. More competitors and more countries than any other sport by far. The centrepiece of the Olympic Games. Just to make a final is worth a gold medal in most other sports.

Trampoline

2

0

No thanks. Just because something is fun to do, and good to watch, that doesn't make it a sport. Otherwise porn would be a sport.

Triathlon

2

2

A worthy Olympic sport and with two gold medals it doesn't take up too much space.

Volleyball

2

2

Yep, keep it.

Walking

3

0

Lord no. We all love a good stroll but this is the Olympic games - get the hell out of here. If walking is a sport then pretty much everything is a sport - breathing, blinking, relaxing…

Water polo

2

2

The Olympics is its premier forum and it deserves its place.

Weightlifting

15

8

Very important Olympic sport but why so many categories? I really don't like weight classes but I'll give them four for the men and four for the women. Get out of here before I change my mind.

Wrestling

18

2

The IOC obviously wasn't paying attention when these guys lodged their paper work. Eighteen gold medals is outrageous and totally disproportionate to the level of competitiveness in the event. We'll keep it but like the other martial arts it's down to two golds.

Total

302

154

 


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