Every four years we are subject to the grand Olympics – a contest between all nations; democratic, communist, monarchies and even those who don’t have a country to call of their own for now. Truly, a contest between “equals”.

Or that is what they would want us to believe.

But is it really so? As this NYTimes article lays down the facts in a very neutral tone, the 2016 medals share are clearly skewed towards the few

  • Top 5 countries claim nearly 40% of all the medals till date
  • Top 10 countries are at 54% of all the medals till date
  • Top 20 countries nearly cover 70% of all the medals till date

And trust me, these percentages are only to go up.

For London 2012 Olympics, the final numbers were as such

  • Top 5 countries : 361 / 960 medals (38%)
  • Top 10 countries : 520 / 960 medals (54%)
  • Top 20 countries : 678 / 960 medals (71%)

The medals list has a long tail with more than 50% of the participating countries going back empty

  • Countries with 0 medals : 119 / 204 countries (58%)
  • Countries with 1 or less medals : 136 / 204 countries (67%)

 Look at the top 20 nations of any Olympics and you’ll see a near majority of developed countries (Jamaica, Kenya, Cuba & Croatia are the only non-developed countries in the top 20). Or rather countries that have the budget and financials, and the vision to have the infrastructure at the grass root levels.

Look deeper at the athletes from any other developing or poor country, and you only get to hear stories of how the athletes have had to fight hard, sometimes even against the system to be able to participate in these games and have had very less support and training for the games. And probably a few that were lucky to have got some level of support.

The reasons for these are aplenty : corruption, poverty, lack of infrastructure, economic & political issues, war, and what not.

Lack of good athletes is never the reason.

Then how exactly is it a fight of the equals?