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Public editor: What should count in the Olympic rankings?

Is a gold medal worth more than one of another colour?

© Alexander Demianchuk/Reuters

A reader asked this week why The Globe and Mail doesn't use the official Olympic method of ranking countries when presenting medal counts.

The Globe's ranking is based on the total number of medals. In the case of a tie, the nod goes to whichever country has more gold, then silver, then bronze.

The Olympics ranking is based on the most gold medals won. In the case of a tie, more silver medals takes the next ranking.

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On Thursday morning, in the official Sochi medal count, Canada stood in seventh place. After the women's curling team won gold, we moved into fifth and stayed there after the women's hockey team won gold. Note that on the official tally Germany was third with eight gold, although it had fewer medals in total than Canada.

In The Globe's method of counting, Canada was also fifth.

Neither method is perfect.

But the reader said, in an extreme example: "Under The Globe's system, the country with 1 gold and 99 bronze medals is ranked higher (100 total medals) than the country with 1 gold and 1 silver (2 medals)."

I agree that is an extreme example, but in this case I would agree that 100 medals is more impressive than two, whatever the colour.

Before the Olympics started, Globe editors decided to use the total medal count in every article and chart. There should also be references to the most golds in the articles. The most important thing is consistency: to choose a method and stick to it.

USA Today had an interesting article earlier in the week explaining the different method of counting. It uses total medals, as do NBC and The New York Times, among others. In Canada, the CBC uses the International Olympic Committee method.

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As we watch the last few days of the Olympics, it will be interesting to see if it makes a difference to Canada's ranking in the end.

What method do you think is most fair?

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About the Author
Public Editor

Sylvia Stead has been a reporter and editor at the Globe since 1975, after graduating from the University of Western Ontario in Journalism with a minor in Political Science. She won the Board of Governors Award there in 1974. As a reporter, Sylvia covered courts, education and Queen's Park. More


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