Speaking of India, Armenia and those Herculean Australians
Even though Medals Per Capita trumps the fallacy of the standard Medals Table (as seen on the right-hand side of this page) and rightfully exalts smaller countries as a rule, let us take this opportunity to applaud India.
This global colossus just harvested the first individual gold medal in its Olympic history when Abhinav Bindra won the 10-meter air rifle event, and while MPC certainly tilts toward the Lilliputians in exquisite fairness, that doesn't preclude some sympathy for a giant.
MPC fully realizes that India, working with a staggering population of 1,147,995,898 -- one of only two three-comma populations in the world -- has an unforgiving road in the MPC standings, especially for a country that has never bothered with the Olympic oomph of China, the other billion-plus population.
India finished 75th of the 75 countries that won medals at Athens 2004, and now stands 46th of the 46 countries that have won medals so far in Beijing.
Still, it's a giddy 46th at the moment, so let's say "hooray."
At the other extreme, the gumdrop nation of Armenia won zero medals in 2004, thus finishing in a 127-way tie behind even India. Well, let's applaud Armenia, which just grabbed two bronzes and ascended from below the charts all the way to No. 1 in the Tuesday MPC standings. Which, as usual, beat the mulch out of the paltry and inexcusably lazy Medals Table used in the Olympics.
The Medals Table had the United States first at 22 and then China at 20, as if culling 22 medals from 303,824,646 citizens or 20 from 1,330,044,605 constituted some sort of big whoop-dee-doo.
After Tigran Gevorg Martirosyan's bronze in the men's 62-69kg weightlifting, and Roman Amoyan's bronze in the men's under-55kg Greco-Roman wrestling, Armenia had two medals among merely 2,968,586 citizens, or one for every 1,484,293 Armenians.
That surpassed even the Herculean Australians, who form arguably the world's most fibrous athletic nation, and already have pared their MPC rating to 2,060,086, despite having only 20,600,856 citizens, with the paring surely to persist. It also made the Armenians possibly a recurring threat to both the defending runners-up Australians and the defending champions the Bahamians (who tend to catch up when track and field begin).
With a nod to another former Soviet republic, the sudden No. 4 Azerbaijan, and to Koreans both North and South, here is the Medals Per Capita top 10:
1. Armenia (2) - 1,484,293
2. Australia (10) - 2,060,086
3. Slovakia (2) - 2,622,375
4. Azerbaijan (3) - 2,725,905
5. Finland (2) - 2,727,704
6. North Korea (7) - 3,354,156
7. South Korea (12) - 4,102,737
8. Austria (2) - 4,102,767
9. The Netherlands (4) - 4,161,328
10. Croatia (1) - 4,491,543
(Some select bottom-dwellers):
30. United States (22) - 14,467,840
40. China (20) - 66,502,230
46. India (1) - 1,147,995,898
-- Chuck Culpepper
Culpepper is a contributor to The Times.
Photo: Indian shooter Abhinav Bindra's mother, Babli, left, and father, A.S.Bindra, celebrate their son's Olympic gold medal on Monday at their residence in Zirakpur near Chandigarh, India. Credit: Associated Press