The Olympics are about national pride. Nations often go to extreme lengths to win even a few medals. Consider the use of foreign born 'imported' talent by smaller nations such as Singapore.
To be sure, Olympics 2012 have highlighted China's emergence as a sports powerhouse. Given the People's Republic's enormous population and increasing wealth, China's success in London should not surprise many. On the contrary, Iran's performance at the 2012 Olympic games caught my eye.
With one more day of medals left, Iran's twelve Olympic medals outpace other large Muslim nations such as Turkey's five, Indonesia's two or Pakistan's zero. Iran's medal haul includes four gold and five silver medals. Among countries with large Muslim populations only Kazakhstan, with six gold medals, obtained more gold medals than Iran.
There is more to the Olympic medals table than meets the eye.
Looking at the total tally of medals by the top sporting nations, one gets the impression that the list reflects a slightly imperfect pecking order amongst the world's rich and powerful. A kind of 'A List' or 'Who's Who' for the world's umpteen nations. Note that the top five medal winning nations are the United States, China, Britain, Russia and Germany - only Germany is not a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.
The absence of Muslim countries from even coming near the top of the Olympics 2012 medals table demonstrates the weakness of the Islamic world's social infrastructure. From this perspective, Iran represents the Islamic world's strengths and weaknesses.
That Iran scored a reasonable tally of medals demonstrates the resilience of its national institutions in the face of international isolation. However, most of Iran's medals were obtained in wrestling and weightlifting reflecting concentrated expertise and primarily with male athletes. The pitiful number of female athletes is telling.
Undoubtedly, a nation which competes for only half the medals on offer, i.e. the men's events, has an uphill struggle to reaching a decent medals count. Additionally, nations which do not field contingents that contest across a wide range of sports are also at a severe disadvantage. Concentration risk affects nations as much as it does businesses.
|Saudi Arabia was divided about the participation of Saudi female athletes in the 2012 Olympics, with or without the hijab|
The Olympics are a truly global event. The occasion surpasses racial, religious and, at times, even national barriers. In spite of this, the success of such an international event requires raising the banner of nationalistic patriotism. A country's pride is at stake. In the 2012 Olympics, the Islamic world was unable to meet the collective aspirations of its varied population. The failure underscores the Islamic world's broader issues of poor governance, internal strife and lack of female empowerment. If these basic issues are addressed then most nations may likely forgive governments for the lack of a medals count at Rio 2016.