The first modern Olympics were in 1896 when the world population was roughly 1.5 billion and only 14 countries were wealthy and organized enough to send teams (241 athletes total). There were two medals in each event. The three-medal system was introduced at the 1904 Olympics, in which 651 athletes from 16 nations competed.
World population today is nearly 8 billion. Of those 8 billion, 2,900 are athletes at the Beijing Winter Olympics. Shouldn’t there be more than three medals per event, in recognition that the number of superb athletes has grown since 1904? Why set things up like Harvard and Yale (minus the discrimination against Asians) where the number of slots for elite status is fixed while the population expands, thus leading to ever-more-cutthroat competition?
I feel sad when I see the amazing 4th place athletes get no recognition. Their performances would have earned them gold medals just a decade or two ago, right?
If we just scale the medals by population growth since 1904, there should be 15 medals per event. If there are only 20 or 30 teams competing in an event, that seems like too many. But why not 5 medals? Gold, Platinum, Silver, Bronze, Stainless Steel. It could be 3 medals if there are fewer than 25 athletes/teams in an event (hockey and curling!) and 5 if there are 25 or more competitors (for reference, there are 74 slots for men and 74 for women in figure skating this year and 119 snowboarders in each of the two gender IDs that the hate-filled IOC recognizes (I hope that one day the Olympics will be truly gender-neutral)).
I’m sure that this idea will never be implemented, but would a five-medal system be an improvement over what we have now?