137 European Gold Medals
Posted by lazzarop su 17 maggio 2016
The curtain falls on the 2012 Olympic Games, the Olympic flame starts its four-year long journey to Rio de Janeiro and the Chairman of the London Organising Committee, Lord Coe, has been appointed to the brand new role of “Legacy Ambassador” with the aim of ensuring that the British economy will benefit from hosting the Games.
While the economic and social rewards are still to come, Great Britain is proudly enjoying its sporting moment, with 29 gold medals and the third position in the overall medal table, behind the giants USA and China.
Other countries have their golden moment too, like Grenada that takes home the first ever Olympic medal, thanks to Kirani James’ victory in the 400 meters, or Uganda, gaining the last gold medal of the Games in the Marathon, and having its national anthem played at the closing ceremony.
Indeed for Britain, and for other countries, every single Olympic medal, and the overall count of them, is a moment of pride, a celebration not just of the sporting result but also of the cultural, social and economic efforts that the country has made to obtain that result. Every golden medal is a means of strengthening the national identity, which goes on even when the national anthem played for the winners has stopped.
But isn’t all this exaltation of national pride in opposition with the true spirit of the Olympic Games? Isn’t the rhetoric of ranking gold medals in contrast with the idea that it isn’t all about the winning but the taking part? Aren’t all the national anthems played during the games in contradiction with the words of John Lennon’s “Imagine” that resounded during the closing ceremony?
“Imagine there’s no countries/ It isn’t hard to do”. Definitely it is not hard for the International Olympic Committee, whose Charter states that competitions are “between athletes in individual or team events and not between countries“. And in respect with the original spirit of the Olympic movement, that sought to eliminate nations’ victories over one another, the IOC still does not draw up any global ranking per country and provides the athlete’s affiliation to a National Olympic Committee only for statistical purposes. Looking back at the first editions of the Games (1896-1920), that aim was visible in the fact that athletes of different nations were allowed to play together in “mixed teams”.
If the possibility of cross-country team has now been lost, the original aim is still visible in the Olympic flag, which represents five interlaced rings, symbolising the five inhabited continents united by the spirit of Olympism.
In an era when conflicts and waves of nationalism characterise the relations between nations, in order to re-discover the original vision of the Games, we should eliminate the medal table, which is just a soft way to reinvigorate the desire of nations to compete against each other.
The Games should instead promote a more peaceful message of cooperation between the different nations, through a medal table where continents are ranked rather than nations.
Supporting a worldwide truce during the Olympic Games (as it was during the ancient games) is an impossible task, but at least creating a new way of ranking the victories would help stopping cultural clashes and national controversies.
That would send a message of real and peaceful integration between different countries, all cooperating for supporting their continent. Cuba and the USA would both add up their medals in the wider American sum, while Iran and Saudi Arabia, North and South Korea, India and Pakistan would all compete together under the Asia colours.
And in the European continent, Germany and Greece would leave aside any economic and financial disagreement, while any debate about Serbia and Turkey’s accession to the EU would easily stop and their gold medals will features along all the other gained by EU members.
According to this new counting system, Europe (not only the EU but all the countries members of the European Olympic Committee, including Croatia, Switzerland, Russia and many other non-EU nations) would have 137 gold medals, against Asia with 96, America with 72 (more than half of which from the US team), Oceania with 12, and Africa with only 10.
Shall we try, at least once every four years, to leave aside our national pride and, in line with the true Olympic ideal, support with joy and enthusiasm our continental identity?