When the modern Olympics were first held in 1896 and in the early 1900s the competitors were numbered in 100s, not the 1,000s that we now have. And, a brilliant idea, the first three in each event were awarded medals: gold, silver and bronze. I don’t quite see where bronze fits in. Both gold and silver are pure elements whereas bronze is an alloy, but no matter, everyone seems very comfortable with these metals.
I too am comfortable with the metals, but I am distinctly uncomfortable with the top three being literally elevated above the rest, the so-called podium finish. The anguish of a competitor who finishes fourth, thus missing out on a medal, is tough to take. After all someone who finishes fourth in the I00m, and is considered the fourth fastest man/woman on the planet, something to be mightily proud of, walks away with nothing, and is often subject to the disapproval of the media.
Point 2: Award a greater number of medals.
- Why only three? I’ve no idea. Perhaps three has that ring to it, and the top three seemed a worthy aim for the numbers involved in 1896. Quite a high percentage of competitors ended up with something.
- So what’s a better idea? More than three medals. My suggestion would be eight. This would mean that every finalist in the track lane events, and all swimming events would be medalists. Of course the heartbreak of those not medaling would just be pushed back to those not reaching the final, but I think that is a far fairer compromise.
- What would the medals be made of? There seems no point meddling with current gold, silver, bronze medals for first, second and third. Past that I haven’t got a whole load of suggestions, maybe copper, or steel, or even chromium could be used, but I’m sure that a consensus could be reached.
- What about events with few competitors? So an event with, say, only 20 competitors or teams would result in nearly half medaling. My immediate reaction is that such events shouldn’t be worthy of any medals, more later, because there is another issue involved.
- In some events, like gymnastics, some competitors would win a sackload of medals. Again there is another issue at work here, please go to point 3 in the next article.
To summarize, I feel that rewarding the first three only is too narrow in this day and age. Sport is virtually global and the world population has rocketed since 1896 (about 1.5 billion). Being in the top 100 is something incredible. But we have to be realistic, and I think something around top 8 or possibly top 10 medaling is perhaps a better compromise.