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Why Ireland Is Better Than The US In Sports

Or Why The Medal Table Tells Us Nothing

An insane claim! Obviously, Sinead knows nothing about sports. Fair enough, I don't know much, but my calculator skills are amazing and thus I make this claim. In the past six weeks, Ireland has taught the world a very important lesson:

That Ireland is a sports powerhouse.

Olympic rings at the London 2012 Olympic Park
I know, I see you scratching your heads in confusion thinking, Yeah, Katie Taylor won gold...but that's about it... No. That's not even the half of it. Firstly, I must admit that this post is very much inspired by the work of my dad and brother who ran a couple of numbers and discovered that, per capita, Ireland is pretty much the best sporting nation in the world. OK, fair enough, that's probably not true, but Ireland is kicking the USA's from here to Stratford.

The US topped the Olympic medal board with a whopping 46 gold medals, 29 silver and 29 bronze, whereas Ireland came in at a respectable, but not so stunning 41st place with 1 gold, 1 silver and 3 bronze medals. No competition, right? Wrong. Big competition.

Ireland has a population of somewhere in the region of 4.5 million people while the US has 311.6 million people. This means that actually the US should be winning way more medals, even before we take into account the amount of money that the US spends on developing and supporting athletes that Ireland doesn't. Ireland won 1 gold medal for every 4.5 million people, while the US only won 1 gold for every 6.77 million inhabitants. The superiority of Irish athletes really shows when we get to bronze medalists, though. Ireland only needs 1.5 million people to produce a bronze medalist, while the US needs over 10 million to choose from.

With all the medals Ireland has won in the Paralympics (8 gold, 3 silver and 5 bronze) I'm sure our athletes will once again prove that they are a mightier team than the Chinese at the top of the leader board. I'll let you know once I've run the numbers.

So, while I don't think we should necessarily be fielding a basketball team and expecting to run roughshod all over the Americans in 2016, I think Irish people should be proud to come from a great sporting nation. We might not top the leader boards, but we do produce world class athletes from a much smaller population than the big countries. Let them battle it out for the top spot on a suspiciously calculated medal board, we'll just continue to take pride in excellence.


  1. Yes, yes, yes! So pleased to read this. Had the exact same conversation with my parents this Summer, speculating about the Netherlands' REAL ranking. My dad said there's an official list somewhere of relative ranking taking size and wealth into account - but I don't think he knew where.


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