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Posted at 02:09 PM ET, 07/27/2012

Olympics 2012: The superlatives

The London Olympic Games will be more subdued than the 2008 Beijing blowout, as the Washington Post’s Anthony Faiola reports. This year, the budget is smaller, the opening ceremony less bombastic and the Olympic Stadium less ornate than the 2008 Bird’s Nest.
US swimmers Ryan Lochte, left, and Michael Phelps react after they competed in the final of the men's 200-meter individual medley in the FINA World Championships at the indoor stadium of the Oriental Sports Center in Shanghai on July 28, 2011. (Antony Dickson - AFP/Getty Images)

But the games are all about countries besting each other, so here’s a look at Olympic “mosts” throughout the years:

• London has hosted the most times — in 1908, 1948 and 2012. Rome was chosen for 1908 initially, but the Olympics were awarded to London after Mount Vesuvius erupted in 1906.

•Beijing’s were the most expensive Games, at $40 billion, which Athens’ 2004 games coming in at $15 billion. The budget for London this year was $3.27 billion, on par with the 2000 Games in Sydney, according to Forbes, but they are expected to come in a few billion over budget.

• This is the lightest, most flexible and most sustainable Olympic stadium ever built. London’s main venue was “constructed using more than 50 percent recycled material, including former gas pipes surplus from the North Sea Gas Pipeline project. In the end, the stadium is 75 percent lighter than if it used traditional materials,” Popular Science reported.
A general view of London’s Olympic Stadium . (Jamie Squire - Getty Images)

• Because the price of gold and silver has increased dramatically since the Vancouver Olympics, the gold medals awarded this year will be some of the most expensive in history.

“This year’s gold medals are worth about $640, based on the value of their gold and silver bullion content. That’s $165 more than the gold medals awarded two years ago at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, despite this year’s medals being nearly 30 percent lighter,” CNBC reports.

• Four sports have endured Olympic history the longest: Fencing, gymnastics, swimming, and track and field have appeared in every modern Olympics.

• For summer games, the United States has won the most gold medals since the modern Olympics began in 1896, with 944. The Soviet Union comes in second, with 395. (The Russian Federation, which has only existed since 1994, has 109.)


Russia's Larisa Latynina performs on the balance beam to win the gold medal during the Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia on Dec. 5, 1956. (AP Photo) (AP)
• As far as summer athletes go, Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, who competed between 1956 and 1964, has the most medals total, with 18. U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps has 16.

• The United Kingdom is sending the most athletes this year, 557, with the United States close behind at 534. This is the first Olympics in which all of the 205 nations have sent female athletes to compete. The U.S. team has more women than men for the first time — 269 women to 261 men. Brunei, Qatar and Saudi Arabia did not send women in the past.

• The oldest-ever medalists were Oscar Swahn, a Swedish shooter who competed in the 1920 games at 72 years old, and Sybil Newall, a 53-year-old archer at the 1908 games.

• BONUS: Scores of countries have never medaled. Ever wonder why some countries win medals and others don’t? A 2008 Duke University study found that, “a larger population, greater wealth, and more public information increase the likelihood that a country will send at least one athlete to the medal podium.” (The study’s authors used radio receivers per 1,000 residents as a stand-in for public information). Apparently, people have to hear about Olympians in order to become them.

Did we miss any? Post your Olympic superlatives in the comments.

See photos of sports you won’t be seeing in London:

By  |  02:09 PM ET, 07/27/2012

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