India could still win one more medal in wrestling, but its present four medal tally still only puts the country at 47th place in the medal rally.
Australian sports officials, smarting at their relatively poor gold medal tally, have noted they still look brilliant if the medal tally is calculated per capita. Of course, that puts India right at the bottom of the ranks.
But population strikes me as a weird way to measure sports efficiency. A better measure would be money. Once you take a look at the kind of infrastructure, coaching, specialist knowledge, equipment and research that is poured into the most successful sporting machines what strikes me is the amount of capital required.
It was originally all amateur and non-profit, now its anything but. Government funding, corporate sponsorship and so on mean the Olympics are big bucks.
How would India fare if we compared its medal haul with the amount of money it spent?
It is hard to say because the finances of most national sports associations are convoluted trails that
are hard to follow and even harder to quantify. So these are back of the envelope calculations. But here’s a few points.
One, India’s Olympic 2012 budget is the easiest to calculate. It’s one government dollop of $ 48.1 million with a small corporate supplement $11 million. India has actually cut its sports ministry budget the past few years.
Two, the budgets of the US and UK, two medal superpowers, dwarf India. UK Sport, the elite sports agency, invested about $ 400 million in potential medal-winning sports for the 2012 games. the US Olympic Committee spent about $ 560 million. But these figures don’t cover corporate and private sponsorship. And that can be huge: the US basketball team gets six times more money in the form of sponsorship than it does from the US Olympic Committee. The US football team gets about the same amount of money as the entire Indian contingent.
But they are clearly getting a good return for their investment given the enormous medal haul of both. Even at $ 3 million per medal, they would easily out rank India.
Three, does this money index work with other emerging economies? Brazil has done well this Olympics thanks to a law that allows companies to give one per cent of their profits to the sports. Petrobras has poured a few millions into Brazilian boxing for example. In fact, Mexico has also come up — and its GDP is about the same as India’s.
Of course, there is also China but I can’t find its Olympic team budget anywhere. But it has been large for a long time and no democracy could put into place the sort of ruthless sports machine that it has. But I doubt it its capital to medal ratio is better than anyone else’s.
India should probably win about 10 medals for the money it puts in. Its gotten three and may get four. So it still underperforms but not as badly as it would seem to in a medal per capita ranking.