I came across this interesting article in the Wall Street Journal that examines Olympic medal-counting metrics which is interesting in and of itself, but the piece I was drawn to was the point made by New York University law professor Benedict Kingsbury which I felt was worth sharing:
“Prestige and respect matter in international relations, and a high score on the medal count supplies some of both,” Kingsbury said. “But the importance of the top places in the total medal rankings reaches beyond prestige — these top rankings are a partly-rational proxy for economic and military power and for state and societal capacity.”
While Kingsbury agrees with his fellow scholars that the Olympic rankings are somewhat arbitrary, they are less so in his view than many other global rankings he has studied. At least the Olympic medal table is based mostly on predetermined rules and objective athletic performance, with a touch of subjective judging mixed in.