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Raising the Red Lantern for 2008

Raise the red lanternThe Games of the XXVIII Olympiad are over. Athens 2004 was not the shambles that many feared. Neil Horan, looking like a reject from an un-filmed Father Ted screenplay, was the only intrusion when far, Far, worse was feared. Yay.

The closing ceremony was a closing ceremony. A blend of solemnity and party, and the obligatory cultural piece from the host of the next Games. Memories of the inflatable kangaroos on bicycles at Atlanta 1996 have scarred my brain. Beijing's balletic presentation on Sunday night was far more tasteful. At least until a Chinese Nikki Webster appeared out of a giant red lantern at the climax.

No less a director than Zhang Yimou was at the helm of the eight-minute Chinese spectacle. Coincidentally, his 2002 Jet Li martial-arts opus, Hero, topped the US box office this weekend.

Here's the list of flag-bearers for each country at the closing ceremony. The one other comment I'll make about the evening is to congratulate Jacques Rogge for not adopting the JA Samaranch sycophancy of calling each Games "the best ever". For a report of the closing ceremony, I've chosen Deutsche Welle (in English).

China got 32 gold medals at Athens, three behind the US. Just think what they'll be like at home. Maybe they should split China into separate provinces for the purposes of Beijing 2008. And start with Tibet.

I couldn't help but note that if you add together the gold medals of Russia (27), Ukraine (9), Belarus (2), Georgia (2), Uzbekistan (2), Kazakhstan (1), Lithuania (1) and Azerbaijan (1), the old Soviet Union totalled 45 gold medals and would have finished on top.

More perverse statistics: of the eleven nations with populations of 100 million or more (source: CIA fact book), China, the USA, Russia, Japan and Brazil all did fairly well. And then there's:

  • India (pop. 1065 mil): 0 gold, 1 silver, 0 bronze
  • Indonesia (pop. 238 mil): 1 gold, 1 silver, 4 bronze
  • Pakistan (pop. 159 mil): nothing
  • Bangladesh (pop. 141 mil): nothing
  • Nigeria (pop. 137 mil): 0 gold, 0 silver, 2 bronze
  • Mexico (pop. 105 mil): 0 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze

On the other hand, a total of 57 countries claimed at least one gold, and 75 claimed at least one medal. There's a good piece in Monday's Christian Science Monitor about the greater distribution of medals internationally.

Only 1439 days till the start of Beijing 2008. Here's the BOCOG website... spot the non-Y2K compliance!