FanDuel - WFBC

March 01, 2010

US Sets Record for Most Medals at Winter Olympics: The final medal count for the Vancouver Olympics is 37 for the United States, the most by any country ever in the Winter Games. It's only the second time the U.S. has led the winter count. The first occurred at Lake Placid in 1932. The Wall Street Journal asks: Does this herald an era of American dominance to rival those of the Soviet Union and East Germany in the past?

posted by rcade to olympics at 09:31 AM - 57 comments

Two real quick thoughts: 1) there are many more medal events now than there every have been. 2) If my memory doesn't fail me too badly here, the medal counts for the Soviets and East Germans back in the old days were almost double that of any other country's medal haul.

posted by NoMich at 09:57 AM on March 01

This is something I'm interested in, being inundated with Canadian coverage for the past two weeks (which, by the way - was awesome. CTV did a freaking fantastic job. Four dedicated channels each showing different events - it was really quite spectacular).

Does anyone down there know that Canada set the record for most golds in a games?

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 10:02 AM on March 01

Yeah, Weedy, that was made pretty clear by several media outlets. NBC and NPR immediately come to mind. On NPR, it went something like this: "Canada's motto for this Winter Games is 'Own the Podium.' The US is winning the overall medal count, but Canada has the most gold medals. Is this owning the podium or not? Here's 'such n such' pundit to discus this now."

posted by NoMich at 10:06 AM on March 01

Heard all about that, Weedy -- in fact, it was announced before they even had the medals, because they were a shoo-in to get some flavor of medal in men's hockey.

USA won the alpine skiing medals haul -- eight, next closest was Norway and Austria with four apiece. Germany got the most golds, though (3).

posted by lil_brown_bat at 10:21 AM on March 01

Cool. I hate to be the classic stereotypical Canadian who wants validation from the US, but I felt that this was a real "mending the fences" games with our neighbors.

The US guys were super phenomenal competitors, athletes and guests. We were happy to cheer for them and watch them win (well, except for hockey). And, yeah, truly they owned Whistler.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 10:24 AM on March 01

Part of the reason that the USA did so well is that they are VERY good at the "new sports", like snowboarding, freestyle skiing and short-track speed skating.

Only 17 of the 37 medals they won would have been available at the last Canadian-held Winter Olympics (Calgary, 1988).

Nate Silver breaks it down rather interestingly over at his site FiveThirtyEight.com

posted by grum@work at 11:26 AM on March 01

We were happy to cheer for them and watch them win (well, except for hockey).

And except for Lindsey Vonn. She is annoying.

posted by fabulon7 at 11:43 AM on March 01

At Lindsey doesn't wear a friggin' tiara. *That's* annoying.

posted by NoMich at 12:13 PM on March 01

I thought the tiara thing was typical of the Winter Olympics athletes. They seem to sing to their own tune.

Only 17 of the 37 medals they won would have been available at the last Canadian-held Winter Olympics (Calgary, 1988).

That's still quite an improvement for the US in the "old" events.

posted by bperk at 01:23 PM on March 01

There were times when I was watching the US dominance in several Olympic sports that I got kind of a rough taste of what it must be like to be a (gasp) Yankees fan.

We're the third largest country in the world, and the two larger nations don't have anything approaching our middle-class largesse. Even though we have short attention spans the other 3 years and 11 months- for example, had the US won Hockey Gold the public wouldn't much care about it a month later while the Canadians I think cared a lot more- the US public is very competitive and "wants to win" and we manage to have a hugely funded Olympic committee and training system. For example, when I read that Finland as a hockey loving nation that was pretty stoked to pull down a Bronze, and they were pulling from a pool of about 5 million people, it hit me that they were medaling while pulling from something like the Atlanta, Miami or D.C. metro areas.

Our ability to draw from effectively the by-far largest pool of healthy, well-fed athletes with the best training and equipment at their disposal is insane- and that Gold or off-cycle competitions and endorsements can result in beaux coup buxx (Wikipedia says Shaun White earned $9m in 2008 alone) which means a fair number of our athletes have an additional advantage as independently wealthy contenders, more so than many other nation's representatives who won't have that sort of payoff. That is coupled with as noted the predominance of new events that lean towards US specialties (like the various snowboarding medals), which I have to imagine come about in part because the US has to be the largest single source of funding for the Olympic activities.

This is not to say that at the end of the day, the individuals winning these medals are not stupendous athletes, or that the US athletes didn't do a fantastic job. After all, the best _____ in the world could have been born anywhere without respect to national borders. But considering Canada won 14 golds to the USA's 9, and only 7 fewer medals overall, in a nation that is 1/9th the size of the US, I'd say that Canada did in fact "Own the Podium".

posted by hincandenza at 01:50 PM on March 01

If medals were appropriately weighted (5-3-1 or something to that effect), I think it would be clear that Canada "won" these games, just as the Chinese "won" the 2008 Summer Olympics by virtue of a superior gold count despite the US having more overall medals. It should be noted, however, that trying to tie Winter Olympics medals to some measure of population is problematic. I think it is a given that the percentage of nations' populations that actually have access to, and participate in, the sports in which there are medals for the Winter Olympics is higher for Canada and the northern European countries than for the US and certain other countries. That being said, the raw numbers for the potential winter athlete pool are still probably quite large for the US in particular. Basically, there are some clear "winners" in these games (US, Canada, Germany, Norway) and some clear "losers" (Russia, in particular); but to try to differentiate much within those groups in any objective way seems futile.

Overall, despite some of the early missteps and weather-related issues (not to mention NBC trying to single-handedly make these games unenjoyable for the American viewing populace), I thought these were a really enjoyable and memorable Winter Games.

posted by holden at 02:31 PM on March 01

If medals were appropriately weighted (5-3-1 or something to that effect), I think it would be clear that Canada "won" these games, just as the Chinese "won" the 2008 Summer Olympics by virtue of a superior gold count despite the US having more overall medals.

If you crunch the numbers, the only weighting system that has Canada "winning" would be if you said:

Gold = 9 points
Silver = 3 points
Bronze = 1 point

(or similarly imbalanced scoring)

3/2/1 or 5/3/1 still doesn't overtake the raw medal total that the US and Germany had.

If you go by population for these Olympics, the big winner is Norway, and it's not even close. Their population is only 4.5million, and they had 23 medals.

If you go by population over the history of the Winter Olympics, then Lichtenstein (population 35,000) and their 9 medals is the runaway winner.

The real interesting trend is the quick rise of China and South Korea.

posted by grum@work at 02:53 PM on March 01

For example, when I read that Finland as a hockey loving nation that was pretty stoked to pull down a Bronze, and they were pulling from a pool of about 5 million people, it hit me that they were medaling while pulling from something like the Atlanta, Miami or D.C. metro areas.

What's really impressive about Finland is that they've won a medal in men's hockey for every Olympics since 1994. They are the only country that can claim that.

posted by grum@work at 03:00 PM on March 01

If you crunch the numbers, the only weighting system that has Canada "winning" would be if you said:

Gold = 9 points
Silver = 3 points
Bronze = 1 point

(or similarly imbalanced scoring)

Damn you, grum! Don't you come in here with facts trying to refute my well-reasoned hunch.

posted by holden at 03:01 PM on March 01

As well as population, I think any comparison should factor in the amount of snow in each country, too.

/Two gold and a silver, Septics!

posted by owlhouse at 03:13 PM on March 01

Hey, at least if you're American you can stand by the fact that your team isn't publicly funded.

And as much as I would love to claim that we "won" these games, the medal total has been the measuring stick since I began watching. Can't be changing the goal posts when it suits you (hello Michael Johnson and your "World's Fastest Man" crap).

And I don't consider vast population to be a good barometer. I would think one would look more closely at number of each sport's participants by nation. For instance, Canada has something like 550,000 people playing organized competitive hockey out of a total world pool of about 1.5 million. Damn right we should win gold.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 03:32 PM on March 01

Hey, at least if you're American you can stand by the fact that your team health care isn't publicly funded.

Obvious, but someone had to do it.

posted by owlhouse at 03:41 PM on March 01

Hey, at least if you're American you can stand by the fact that your team health care isn't publicly funded.

owlhouse is ordered to remedial training/education on Medicare and Medicaid. Far from a perfect system and far from universal coverage, but to say that health care in America is not publicly funded is ludicrous.

posted by holden at 04:32 PM on March 01

And I don't consider vast population to be a good barometer. I would think one would look more closely at number of each sport's participants by nation.

I think it should be total population of country that receives a minimum of 12" of snow in a calendar year.

So Canada doesn't have to count Vancouver. The USA doesn't have to count anything like Texas or most of California, but the northeastern states and the midwest states do count.

posted by grum@work at 04:33 PM on March 01

Damn you, grum! Don't you come in here with facts trying to refute my well-reasoned hunch.

I'm sorry! It's a sickness! That sentence was just screaming "DO THE MATH!" and I couldn't stop myself!

posted by grum@work at 04:35 PM on March 01

I think any comparison should factor in the amount of snow in each country, too.

By this standard, the mid-Atlantic portion of the US should be a winter Olympic power.

posted by Howard_T at 04:39 PM on March 01

Hey, at least if you're American you can stand by the fact that your team health care isn't publicly funded.

owlhouse is ordered to remedial training/education on Medicare and Medicaid. Far from a perfect system and far from universal coverage, but to say that health care in America is not publicly funded is ludicrous.

I'd say owlhouse is more right than wrong. Less than 1/5 of the population get any public assistance for their health care and that includes Medicare where beneficiaries have to pay for part of their coverage.

By this standard, the mid-Atlantic portion of the US should be a winter Olympic power.

This year has been crazy. Generally though the mid-Atlantic wouldn't qualify. The population of the snowy regions of the United States seems pretty low. Of course if you count the entire state if part of it receives enough snow, then you could get all of CA.

posted by bperk at 05:00 PM on March 01

The only two nations to finish ahead of Canada have more than 2x the population (Germany) and 10x the population (USA).

Per capita, we kicked ass.

posted by Drood at 05:01 PM on March 01

I'd say owlhouse is more right than wrong. Less than 1/5 of the population get any public assistance for their health care and that includes Medicare where beneficiaries have to pay for part of their coverage.

I'm not going to get into a debate about the efficacy of these programs, but owlhouse might be more right than wrong if he had said that the U.S. does not have widely available publicly funded healthcare or that public healthcare funding is not allocated in a uniform way or that there is no universal healthcare in the U.S. Fact is, Medicare and Medicaid both are significant draws on public funds -- roughly 20% of the federal budget in each of 2008 and 2009, representing over $600B and over 4% of GDP. That is a large outlay of public funds. So not more right than wrong, just wrong.

posted by holden at 05:12 PM on March 01

I always thought it was a well known fact that owlhouse is more right than wrong on any issue.

posted by NoMich at 05:25 PM on March 01

I always thought it was a well known fact that owlhouse is more right than wrong on any issue.

Not according to my ex.

posted by owlhouse at 05:34 PM on March 01

That is a large outlay of public funds. So not more right than wrong, just wrong.

So, a relatively small amount of our population gets their health care funded by the U.S. government, so therefore, the US has publicly funded health care? If you took that to its logical conclusion, the U.S. has publicly funded (insert just about anything) because there is a program funded by the government that pays for the cost for some people.

posted by bperk at 06:05 PM on March 01

The only two nations to finish ahead of Canada have more than 2x the population (Germany) and 10x the population (USA).

Most of us down here in the USA have only seen snow on a Travel Channel documentary about Canada. Advantage you.

posted by smithnyiu at 06:06 PM on March 01

So, a relatively small amount of our population gets their health care funded by the U.S. government,

Just for the record, medicare is funded from a federally mandated payroll tax which is also doubled by the employer. So, this health care is funded by employees and employers and controlled by the government, just like social security.

posted by tselson at 06:10 PM on March 01

So, a relatively small amount of our population gets their health care funded by the U.S. government

Those who have employer provided health insurance in the US actually receive a hidden government subsidy to help pay for the insurance. Since health insurance is considered a non-taxable benefit, but is in actuality a part of your compensation from your employer, the tax-free status reduces the amount you pay for it by anywhere from about 15% to around 35%, depending on your tax rate.

Since I am old, retired, receiving Medicare and Social Security benefits, and am enrolled in a government subsidized Medicare Advantage health insurance plan, I would like at this time to thank all of you US tax paying SpoFites for your generosity.

posted by Howard_T at 06:30 PM on March 01

So, a relatively small amount of our population gets their health care funded by the U.S. government, so therefore, the US has publicly funded health care?

bperk: you are arguing a position that owlhouse did not take and that I am not refuting. What owlhouse said was:

Hey, at least if you're American you can stand by the fact that your team health care isn't publicly funded.

My response was that the U.S. does publicly fund healthcare, and does so to a large degree in terms of gross dollars and a percentage of budget. Who gets it and whether it is effectively, equitably or morally allocated is another matter entirely. I suppose you could argue I am being too literal in my reading of what owlhouse said (specifically, by arguing, as you seem to do, that "publicly funded" means that some majority percentage of the populace directly receives public funds or perhaps by arguing that the "your" in his statement means all Americans), but on the simplest literal reading I believe it is factually incorrect.

posted by holden at 06:35 PM on March 01

Hey, sorry about the derail, guys.

My original comment was actually referring to this.

I'll remove my tongue from my cheek in future.

posted by owlhouse at 06:37 PM on March 01

Well, if you want to get technical, Canada does not have publicly funded health care, but rather publicly funded insurance. Hospitals are private institutions and Doctors are private contractors - they bill the government.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 07:21 PM on March 01

By this standard, the mid-Atlantic portion of the US should be a winter Olympic power.

The problem with the mid-atlantic is the size of their hills. Maybe the measuring stick should be the population who gets x inches of snow compared to y feet difference in altitude over such and such terrain who make z dollars per year to afford snow sports (or centimeters, meters and loonies).

Or we could just say congrats to both Canada and the US for having an outstanding Olympic games. I'll be looking forward to hockey four years from now for sure.

posted by Ricardo at 08:34 PM on March 01

Anyone that doesn't think America has quite a bit of publicly funded health care is obviously watching too much MSNBC.

Go to any major county hospital in the US and take a look at what you see. You will see an endless line of uninsured people getting their basic health care needs taken care of at taxpayers' expense. This is in addition to any Medicare/medicaid costs. But, as Weedy pointed out it's really a discussion about insurance more than it is about health care.

Back to sports...I think comparing the US's total population to that of Canada when talking about the Winter Olympic sports is a bit misleading. While we have 10X the population, I would guess (too lazy to research) that we don't have 10x the number of cross country skiers/curlers/hockey players/etc.. That being said, I think Canada owned the podium by virtue of their Gold medals,keeping in mind that the Silver and Bronze are really the 1st and 2nd losers.

posted by dviking at 09:10 PM on March 01

This is in addition to any Medicare/medicaid costs.

Not really, hospitals that treat indigent patients are able to pass those costs on through Medicare and Medicaid programs (see disproportionate share hospitals). Hospitals are only required to provide emergency care to the uninsured, and those people get a bill unless they qualify for Medicaid or Medicare. Emergency care is not really basic health care needs except to anyone who has been watching too much Fox News.

posted by bperk at 09:54 PM on March 01

bperk, maybe we're talking about two different things...at a for profit hospital they are allowed to only give emergency care, but every major county that I know of has at least one hospital that will take care of the indigent beyond emergency care. Go to Parkland Hospital in Dallas, or Ramsey (at least it was called Ramsey 20 years ago when my wife worked there) in St. Paul some day. You'll see people getting treated for the flu, or other non-emergency situations at no cost. This does get passed on to the taxpayers.

Yes, they do get a bill, one they have no intention of paying. This article speaks to some of the costs hospitals are incurring. From the article: In Texas, where the state comptroller estimates illegal immigrants cost hospitals $1.3 billion in 2006, the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston is considering denying cancer care to such immigrants. Cancer care isn't emergency care.

BTW, didn't learn this watching Fox, unfortunately, my wife has been dealing with cancer for the past 7 years. She uses University of Texas Medical System, and we've witnessed this firsthand.

And, besides, if the hospital is able to pass the costs on through Medicare/Medicaid, who do you suppose pays for that? Yep, the taxpayers. The disproportionate share hospital program is paid for by the US goverment, which is paid for by whom? Yep, the taxpayer.

So, the only item to be determined is if it's the federal or the local government that is going to be taxing us.

Sorry for the rant. Just so much misinformantion on this topic floating out there.

posted by dviking at 01:46 AM on March 02

Just an FYI, medicaid pays pennies on the dollar, so most of the treatment given to medicaid patients goes unpaid for and is taken as a loss by the facility. If they participate in medicaid they aren't allowed to pass on the large majority of the bill that goes unreimbursed.

Anybody else find it funny that we're debating how publicly funded the US healthcare system is in a thread about a record for Winter Olympic medals?

posted by apoch at 05:19 AM on March 02

And, besides, if the hospital is able to pass the costs on through Medicare/Medicaid, who do you suppose pays for that?

I know, but that is included in the Medicare/Medicaid costs -- not in addition, which is what you wrote. Yes, there are facilities that take care of the indigent, but they apply for Medicaid reimbursement for that care. That doesn't change that we are only talking about 18% of the population getting care subsidized by the Govt. There are a substantial number of uninsured who don't qualify for Medicaid. They don't get their blood pressure medicine, their diabetes medicine, and they are definitely not getting preventive screenings for prostate cancer and breast cancer. Even people who qualify for Medicare cannot always afford their share of their medical costs, so don't get they treatment they should.

I get frustrated by misinformation as well, especially with people underestimating the impact of our dysfunctional health care system. It is a travesty in a wealthy country such as ours, and I wish more people would be concerned about their neighbors that are suffering.

I'm sorry about your wife.

posted by bperk at 05:48 AM on March 02

The only two nations to finish ahead of Canada have more than 2x the population (Germany) and 10x the population (USA).

It's not fair to hold it against the U.S. that more people want to live here. Even Canadians cluster at our border. I think people are drawn to us by America's contentious political arguments and increasingly complex overtime rules in football.

posted by rcade at 08:36 AM on March 02

Especially the football OT rules.

posted by yzelda4045 at 09:04 AM on March 02

I come to the United States for the increasingly complex overtime rules in football, I stay for the health care.

posted by tommytrump at 09:08 AM on March 02

I fled from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony because of religious persecution. And the food.

posted by smithnyiu at 09:53 AM on March 02

nice line Tommy!

bperk, I really don't want to hash out our differing views on how the US pays for our health care system on this site, maybe we can do it over some beers sometime. After all, I think that's how our elected officials tend to do it.

posted by dviking at 09:58 AM on March 02

How ironic, I missed the healthcare discussion because I'm sick.

Whatever the amount of public money is going to health care, the system is broken and needs a complete overhaul. Poor people go to the emergency room/hospital as a last resort because they can't afford a doctor. I'm sure it is taxpayer funded but it is a really shitty way of running healthcare.

And approximately 45,000 people die every year because of a lack of health care. But even the people with healthcare insurance are constantly being screwed by their own insurance companies. So anyone who thinks that we have the best healthcare system in the world is completely wrong.

And anyone who is concerned about the government getting between you and your doctor has obviously never had to deal with a health insurance company (or as I like to call them, Satan's agents on earth. And United Health Care go can fuck themselves from here to the end of time.)

I'm not saying that the current bill is a good one (In fact, it's woefully inadequate and a huge mess). But this is a broken system that needs to be fixed. And the republicans sticking their hands in their ears and shouting NO NO NO remind me of my 21 month old.

If we insist upon having for profit corporations, whose only incentive is money, running our health care system and deciding who gets coverage, there ought to be much more regulations and penalties in place to control these scumbags.

By the way, Owlie, I agree 100% with your sentiments even if your statement wasn't 100% correct.

posted by cjets at 11:31 AM on March 02

After all, I think that's how our elected officials tend to do it.

No, they do it at a fancy cocktail party paid for by lobbyists.

I'm not saying that the current bill is a good one (In fact, it's woefully inadequate and a huge mess). But this is a broken system that needs to be fixed. And the republicans sticking their hands in their ears and shouting NO NO NO remind me of my 21 month old.

I agree, but the Republicans aren't the only ones botching up health care reform. The health care reform proposals are huge giveaways to insurance companies. Mandating that everyone buy insurance without installing any cost controls is a ridiculous idea. All of the really good ideas are considered dead in the water and not passable. So, what's left is a bunch of ideas mashed together that will probably be better than what we have now, but not much better.

posted by bperk at 02:18 PM on March 02

Let's bring this health care summit to a close, please.

posted by rcade at 02:51 PM on March 02

As a Canadian, it didn't feel like the American's were dominating the games and I mean that in a good way. Probably because Canada won the gold in several events that mattered the most to us and other countries cleaned up in areas where they traditionally dominate (like Nordic countries and X-country skiing events).

Plus, when you talk about domination, it doesn't quite fit what happened when someone was winning by 3/100th of a second. It's a win but is that domination?

I really enjoyed the Olympic American team and it was fun to compete against them, especially with a lot of the geo-political stuff that used to dominate the games being in the past.

posted by jc at 04:05 PM on March 02

Plus, when you talk about domination, it doesn't quite fit what happened when someone was winning by 3/100th of a second. It's a win but is that domination?

In many events it was amazing how little difference there was between 1st place and 4th place. In many events the difference was still just a few 100th's of a second.

One gets a Gold Medal and a million dollar advertising payout, the other gets obscurity.

posted by dviking at 04:27 PM on March 02

One gets a Gold Medal and a million dollar advertising payout, the other gets obscurity.

Jerry Seinfeld has a funny bit about that.

posted by rcade at 05:56 PM on March 02

By official Olympic tallies, and indeed most worldwide tallies, total medals is meaningless. What you count is total golds -- champions -- rather than runner-ups. The US and Canada are mostly unique in the world in that they tally totals. I can't remember exactly when this started but I think it came as a response to constant Soviet domination.

And as an insecure Canadian used to constant Olympic disappointment, once in my life I want to say: congrats USA on being the first place and second loser more often!

posted by mkn at 06:15 PM on March 02

By official Olympic tallies, and indeed most worldwide tallies, total medals is meaningless.

I can recall a big deal being made of total medal count for as long as I've been following the Olympics, going back to the '70s.

posted by rcade at 06:27 PM on March 02

Yeah, I was just watching a documentary on the Cold War and it brought up how big of a deal the medal count was to both sides as it was seen as a validation of their worldviews.

Funny, after watching the USSR beat Canada in the 1981 Canada Cup, I never once thought that communism was the better way to live but what did I know :-)

I guess this mean that for Canada, the United States is our new ideological enemy. I guess I should lay down the ground rules...

- It's a toque, not a cap.

- Cheese + Gravy + Fries = Poutine and it's amazing

- For some reason it's a big deal when your hockey teams of Canadians, Europeans, and Americans beat our hockey teams of Canadians, Europeans, and Americans in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

- Don't point out the obvious when we defend the larger CFL football by saying that it is easier to punt... as if any one goes to a football game to watch the kickers.

I guess we will pick up this debate in Sochi in 2014. Just make it quick, it doesn't look like the NHL will be there so we will have to watch games there and here at the same time.

posted by jc at 08:35 PM on March 02

I guess this mean that for Canada, the United States is our new ideological enemy.

I'd prefer to think of the rivalry as two brothers competing against each other. There's no one you'll fight harder against. But at the end of the game, you're still family.

posted by cjets at 09:28 PM on March 02

- For some reason it's a big deal when your hockey teams of Canadians, Europeans, and Americans beat our hockey teams of Canadians, Europeans, and Americans in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

I've always found that hysterical. Especially when the winning team is from the sun belt. And it's in the finals. Tee Hee.

posted by tahoemoj at 10:53 PM on March 02

At the end of the day, someone always brings the Stanley Cup back to rural Saskatchewan so we are happy with it but it is odd that we get so upset when only three of six Canadian teams make the playoffs. It's as if something is wrong with the state of the game.

In the end, I think it proves the point that hockey has an almost unhealthy places in the Canadian ego and identity.

posted by jc at 08:18 AM on March 03

Yeah, well, that's true and all, but, uh... Well... um... Well, I can't think of a way to finish that sentence.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 06:24 PM on March 03

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