Olympic and national strength
When we were young, we were always told that physical strength meant national strength. At every sports competition, President Park Chung Hee emphasized physical fitness, and on every field day at school, the principals repeated the motto. We used to start the school day with the National Athletic Exercise, during which we would move our bodies and shake our arms and legs as instructed. We often asked, “Does the country become more powerful if we all become healthy and strong?” Back then, the entire country was stricken by poverty and many were starving.
But the medal results of the London Olympics reminded me of what President Park said. Physical strength is national strength. The number of medals won by each country almost coincides with national strength. The United States won the most gold medals and finished first in the total medal count. The American athletes took home 46 gold medals, eight more than China. And Team USA won a total of 104 medals, far ahead of China’s 88. No one rational would object to the fact that the United States and China are first and second in terms of national strength as well. The top 10 countries in the total medal rankings include the U.K., Russia, Germany, Japan, Australia, France and Italy, showing that there must be a connection between national strength and the number of medals won. Korea may be an exception, as we won the fifth-most gold medals with 13 and finished ninth in the total medal count with 28.
The Korea JoongAng Daily printed a world map yesterday based on countries’ land mass and weighted total of medals won at the Games. In the Olympic cartogram, Korea is a major country in Northeast Asia. While the actual area of Korea is one-hundredth the size of China, it is represented as a third of its size.
In 2011, a Web site National Ranking listed countries around the world based on five weighted criteria: 35 percent for the economy; 35 percent for military strength; 10 percent for diplomatic successes; 10 percent on technological innovation; and 10 percent on “charm.” Korea was ranked at 11th place for economy, 14th in military strength, 12th in diplomatic success, fourth in technological innovation and 26th in charm. The country’s overall ranking was 11th. India’s was 15th, and the world’s largest democracy may prove these medal maps wrong. It is practically nonexistent on the cartogram, winning zero gold, two silver and four bronze medals. Does this mean Olympic strength does not mean national strength? It is great to see Korean athletes excel, but we must keep pushing forward. Physically and nationally, our strength has come a long way but can still improve.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Bae Myung-bok