THE EDITOR, Sir:
As we celebrate our successes at the just-completed Summer Olympics, let us not be jingoistic about our achievements or be so fixated on our third-place finish in the athletics section of the competition that we lose sight of an important message being conveyed by the results.
The medal table indicates that 10 out of a total of 204 countries participating in the Games won 57 per cent of the medals. More than a half of the countries did not win a medal. This skewed distribution of medals largely reflects the importance of money in determining a country's performance in the Olympics.
For example, the United States (US) spent more than US$400 million (more than US$1 million a day) in its thrust to win both the overall medal and gold medal counts at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Further, it has been estimated that Australia spent some US$300 million to prepare for the London Olympics and that China spent approximately US$1.6 million for each gold medal it won in the London Olympics in only three events - swimming, gymnastics and weightlifting.
At the other end of the spectrum are the 'other' Olympic participants, many of whom do not have the resources to plough into high-performance centres, including sport facilities and infrastructure and coaches.
In the history of the Olympics, some 80 of the 204 countries have never won a medal. Take Bangladesh, for example, with a population of approximately 152 million, or two per cent of the world's population. That country has never brought home an Olympic medal, compared with more than 2,600 medals won by the US.
Is it fair?
The apparently never-ending economic disparities between rich and poor countries raise questions such as: the fairness of the Olympics and similar sporting events; and whether Olympic medals, for the most part, are meant to be the domain of rich countries.
Going forward, it is my hope is that the International Olympic Committee, developed countries and the big corporate entities come together and develop support mechanisms aimed at better equipping the less able countries, thus creating a more level playing field for their participation in the Olympics.
This is of critical importance if the intent of the modern Olympics is to remain that of encouraging international community and cooperation.