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GREEK TO ME

Forget U.S. Team; Bahamas Rules

Friday, August 27, 2004; Page D12

Being the sort of thorough, thoughtful columnist who likes to sort out the facts before an uninformed comment about an important issue is published, I think the U.S. Olympic team is vastly overrated.

And I'm not just saying that so Amanda Beard and Misty May will write me angry e-mails, thereby giving me their e-mail addresses and paving the way toward dual restraining orders.


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No, I just think the United States gets way too much credit for being the greatest sports nation because I just looked at the Olympic medal table and found some shocking figures.

Yes, we are again poised to win the medals race over Russia and China by as much as 20 medals. We are, therefore then, automatically deemed as the world's sporting super power.

Which is a joke.

Why? Because we have 280 million people! With that many people, one in five of us should win a medal. I should win a medal. You should win a medal. Star Jones should win a medal. With 280 million, we should lead the world in everything but birth control.

The Bahamians are really king of the hill. Yes, it turns out, due to a compilation by my friend at Newsday, Chuck Culpepper, Bahamas leads in the world's all-important per capita medal race. The little hamlet of a Caribbean nation, famous for the luxurious and kitschy Atlantis Hotel -- it may be famous for something else but that's the only place I've ever been there -- has won a medal for every 149,848 people. That's right, a nation of under 300,000 has won exactly . . . two medals.

Okay, so two is not that many. Admittedly, that's not a lot of competition to be on the box of Bahamian Wheaties.

Fair enough. But you know what other nations also have two medals? Egypt. Finland. Colombia. And none of them even has an Atlantis.

The sports ministers of those countries should be ashamed of themselves. And don't give me this, "We need money for health care, water, public services." These are the Olympics. Health care. Hah.

If the Egyptians, Finns and Colombians knew what was good for them, they would start prepping for Beijing 2008 by immediately hiring 500,000 Estonian P.E. teachers.

Estonia, who knew?

I know what you're thinking, "Estonia, what have they done athletically?" The Estonians only win a medal for every 447,221 of their citizenry. They have won three medals at these Games.

Australia is No. 3 in the per capita medal race and, in my mind, the clear champion.

Down Under, every 436,096th person wins a medal. They have 43 at the Olympics, including 16 golds. That's more gold medals than Russia, Germany or France, otherwise known as the Coalition of the Non-Willing.

Slovenia, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Belarus, Greece, Denmark and Hungary round out the per-capita top 10.

Frankly, I expected more from Greece. They've got 13 medals so far, which is good for, like, Canada. But pathetic for the host nation. Fortunately, the Greek Olympic Committee can blame this on American softball and baseball players, who defected to play for their non-medal-winning teams.

Iran also gets a short shrift in the medals race, but not for per-capita reasons. The Iranians only have won medal, but it's a gold won by Hossein Rezazadeh, who repeated as super-heavyweight Olympic weightlifting champion on Wednesday night and broke his own world record with a clean-and-jerk lift of 581 pounds. He is the world's strongest man. In the holy trinity of Citius, Altius, Fortius, Citius is No. 1. If you train and feed the world's strongest man, you should have some special recognition, instead of being tied for 60th in the medals race.

-- Mike Wise


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