Olympolitik

Of the ten countries that received the most medals at the London games, all except China and Russia are OECD members, while no less-developed countries, with the possible exception of Ukraine, are in the top 15. Thus, while economic power is not a prerequisite to Olympic power, multipolarity in sports remains positively correlated with it.

PARIS – Is there a link between economic power and Olympic medals? Is a form of multipolarity in sports emerging as political multipolarity sets in?

In 1992, immediately after the Cold War’s end, the United States and the former Soviet Union’s “Unified Team” won a quarter of the medals in Barcelona. Global bipolarity had not yet vanished. By the 2008 Beijing games, the world had changed significantly. The Soviet-American duopoly had given way to a Sino-American duopoly, which won a combined 20% of the medals.

The London games confirmed this trend. The Sino-American duopoly has loomed large in the medal count (22% of the total), but not outrageously so. Europe remains strong, while Asia and the Caribbean have made significant headway.

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