Empire Games

by zebra on 16 August 2012 · 7 comments

Many readers have been expecting me to post a follow-up to my Olympic analysis of four years ago. I was in fact expecting it myself and even started collecting data, but somehow it has not happened. Fortunately, regular contributor (and some time beer coaster calculator), James Glover has stepped into the void.

It’s at about this time every four years that the same old boring analysis of Olympic Medals [not for everyone! Ed.] is brought out showing Olympic medals per capita, per GDP, per dollar spent etc. While this is all very useful, this particular Olympics it has failed to show Australia “punching above its weight” and is thus, in reality, the dominant sporting nation not just on the planet, but in the whole of history as well. The Fairfax press has tried to prove this thesis, but there is a spoiler. However you cut it we came out of the top half dozen nations. Personally I don’t think coming 10th in the gold medal count is really that bad. At least we beat the Kiwis right? Hmmm, that gets me thinking…

Actually it also occurs to me that were we just to reach out across the Ditch and extend a filial hand to our beloved New Zealand cousins, combined our trans-Tasman teams and competed under an ANZAC flag we would have finished an even more respectable 5th just behind Russia.

So this got me thinking. How would other groups of nations, alliances or indeed, past empires, have fared in the Games of the XXXth Olympiad? I can’t guarantee my geography is precise (and it is not up for discussion) but here is my best take on it. For these purposes I have not included the US in the British Empire because frankly it was their choice to leave without seeking permission.

In the interests of fairness I have allocated only part of the tally in some cases to take into account that (i) the Romans did not conquer Scotland or Ireland (so 50% of Team GB), and (ii) Quebec is not part of the Anglosphere (so they only get 75% of Canada’s tally – this on advice of a non-Quebecois Canadian). Feel free to continue this game – Axis vs Allies, the French Empire of Bonaparte vs British Empire at the same time. Endless fun now our cold winter days are no longer warmed by the Olympic flame. Interesting to see that in terms of Empires the British come behind the Mongolian Empire and the Roman Empire wins on weighted medals (3,2,1) if not on gold medals alone.

In any event the result proves the strongest alliance of all time is NATO – both the strongest military alliance and, if they wished, the strongest sporting one. Maybe money doesn’t buy you medals but it would seem that missiles do!

Empire/Alliance Gold Silver Bronze Total Weighted % Total
NATO 138 129 139 406 811 45%
EU 95 96 103  294 580  32%
Anglosphere 98 73.75 79 249.5 520 29%
Roman Empire 68 79  72.5 219.5 435 24%
Mongolian Empire 75 54 64 193 397 22%
British Empire 58 58 71 186 361  20%
Soviet Union 45 41 67 153 284 16%
ANZAC 14 18 17 48 95 5.3%


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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Simon Rumble August 17, 2012 at 8:53 am

If you’re gonna list the Anglosphere, surely you also have to include the Francophonie?

(Good luck splitting out the Quebecois athletes though ;)

2 Zebra August 17, 2012 at 4:29 pm

I know it is infra dig to comment on one’s own posts but I have been reading an awful lot of books about wars and empires recently. Mostly by Anthony Beevor. His books “Stalingrad” and “Berlin” were two of the best books of the last decade on WWII. Then he wrote a book called “D Day” which went from the Normandy landings to the liberation of Paris.

When I read “D Day” I thought – wouldn’t it be great if someone wrote a book about Paris after the liberation? Not sure what I was thinking but turns out Beevor wrote a book called “Paris: After the Liberation”. Just the ticket. He also wrote books about the Spanish Civil War (boring) and the Invasion of Crete (Even more boring). Anthony Beevor has recently published a book called, wait for it, “World War II”. It starts with a description of an asian German army soldier who was caught by the Allies at Normandy who had been captured from the Russian army and before that had been a Japanese soldier captured by the Russians in 1937 in Manchuria at the outbreak of the war when the Japanese and Chinese armies first met.

The thing about reading about wars is that you realise how not just horrific (and parenthetically speaking just finished All Quiet On The Western Front) but how wierd it all is. I am also reading a book about the first world war and all I can work out is that they went to war because they didn’t have Facebook. Mostly WWI happened due to lack of communication. If they had FB it never would have happened. I hate FB but I hate world wars even more, and who doesn’t?

3 JJC August 17, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Very droll, Mr Mule. But I’d need a better explanation of his categories. There is, obviously, a considerable overlap of NATO, the EU and the Roman empire [and does he mean the Latin-speaking “Roman” Empire or the German-speaking form (the Römisches Reich)?].

Category formation is a nettlesome challenge [as the Editor would know better than most!].

4 Zebra August 17, 2012 at 11:40 pm

My definition of the Roman Empire stopped short of Germany. For the Gauls I first divided the medals by 3 and then noting that Gaul was in three parts multipled that figure by 3.

5 WisdomTooth August 19, 2012 at 10:35 am

You’d still have to divide by some numeraire (#countries, pop, GDP, GNI, etc), Jim. Oherwise, more is just more countries (extra credits for using figures from the age of those empires).

The analysis has legs, and the consequences are far-reaching: common law vs roman law, democracy vs autocracy… But – JJC is right – the proof is in the pudding ;)

6 JJC August 20, 2012 at 10:37 pm

Thanks for the further comments “Zebra”. But don’t forget that the classical Romans conquered Germania as far north as the Rhine [a philosopher friend prefers to say that they "civilised" Germany up to that Rhine-Main line]. So strictly southern [i.e. Catholic] Germany ought to be considered part of the classical “Roman empire” for the purposes of your analysis.
The frequent alterations of the sports which have been included and excluded make for both distractions and confounders. Foe example, in the first London games [1908] Rugby (Union) was included as a sport and Australia won the medal in a small list of teams. It was, incidentally, the first such Rugby team to be called the “Wallabies”.

7 Zebra August 22, 2012 at 9:33 am

I can see JJC that the Roman Empire extended to the Rine and the Danube (and possibly as far as present day Stuttgart beyond that). That also means, apart from south west Germany, I didn’t include most of Austria and about half of Hungary.

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