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Sebastian Coe isn’t counting Britain’s medals

Olympic Games chief Sebastian Coe reacts during a news conference in the Olympic Park at the London 2012 Olympic Games July 29.

LUKE MACGREGOR/Reuters

Sebastian Coe might be the only person in Britain not obsessing over the country's medal tally at the Olympics.

With British athletes doing well in London, the country's media has been gushing about the medal count and providing regular updates. So much so that when Britain failed to win a medal Wednesday, commentators were quick to offer reassurances that several medals were guaranteed Thursday.

But Coe, who chairs the Games' organizing committee, is not one to count medals.

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"If I am being honest, and I am possibly heretical here, I don't get massively excited whether we're third fourth or tenth on the medals table," he said Thursday. "I think for me, the thing that drives and inspires all people into sport are the indelible memories of great big British moments."

He said that while he is delighted the country set a high target for medals, and has been fixated on the running total, "when we look back at some of the sports that will have really, in a way, filled their boots after this, and what do I mean by that, getting more young playing that sport, is because they will remember those extraordinary moments."

Medals counts at Olympics are not straight forward and there are several ways manipulate the figures to make a country look better.

The International Olympic Committee's ranking method is by the number of gold medals won. By that measure China is first with 36, the United States second with 34 and Britain third with 22.

However, if total medals won is used (ie all gold, silver and bronze), the ranking changes. The U.S. is first with 81, China next at 77 and Russia is third with 53. Britain comes fourth at 48.

Needless to say the British media prefers the IOC method which puts "Team GB" in third.

Most Canadian media, and the Canadian Olympic Committee, prefer the total medal tally. By that measure, Canada is 12th with 14 medals. Under the IOC method, Canada is 30th with one gold.

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But an argument can be made that the real leader in the medal count is tiny Grenada, which has just one medal, a gold for Kirani James in the 400 metres. But that puts the country on top in terms of medals won per capita given Grenada's population of 110,000. Second goes to New Zealand, population 4.4 million, which has 10 medals and third is Jamaica, with 2.7 million people and six medals. Canada ranks 34th, Britain 16th, U.S. 41 and China 59th. India is at the bottom with four medals.

Britain fares a little better in terms of gold medals per capita, moving up to 9th place while Canada falls back to 35th. Grenada still takes first.

As for total medals by gross domestic product, Grenada once again is on top followed by Jamaica. Britain is 34th, Canada 48th and the U.S. 56th.

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About the Author
European Correspondent

Paul Waldie has been an award-winning journalist with The Globe and Mail for more than 10 years. He has won three National Newspaper Awards for business coverage and been nominated for a Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism. He has also won a Sports Media Canada award for sports writing and authored a best-selling biography of the McCain family. More

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