Sunday, August 12, 2012

2012 Olympics Over - USSR Gets 163 Medals

The last Olympics at which the republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics competed under that name was the XXIV Olympiad of 1988, in Seoul, South Korea.  That was also the last Olympics at which the East and West German teams competed separately.

In 1992, 12 of the 15 republics of what was by then the former USSR, competed as the Unified Team of the Commonwealth of Independent States.  The three Baltic Republics of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia did not join those unified states then, but competed by themselves.

Had the Soviet Union somehow held together until 2012, they would have been the dominant sports power in this competition.  Here is the final medal count for the top three countries, weighted toward favoring gold medals:
USA:    45 Gold - 29 Silver - 29 Bronze --- 103 medals
PRC:    38 Gold - 27 Silver - 22 Bronze ---   87 medals
UK:      29 Gold - 16 Silver - 19 Bronze ---   64 medals 
Former republics of the USSR:    47 Gold - 43 Silver - 73 Bronze --- 163 medals
Those of us old enough to remember Olympiads back into the 1950s may also remember the intense rivalry between the USA and the USSR, and between East and West Germany, perhaps best exemplified by the hockey semi-final of the 1980 Winter Games, between the USA and USSR, sometimes called "The Miracle on Ice."

That winter games was the first at which the Peoples Republic of China competed without prejudice in relationship to Taiwan, in terms of full recognition of the PRC as being the real China.

The 1980s saw an intensification of rivalry between the USA and USSR, as the Soviet-Afghan War and deployment of a new generation of medium range ballistic missiles in Europe brought Cold War confrontation to the fore.  The confrontations, especially the instability brought on by mobile IRBMs such as the Pershing II Missile, were very troubling, and nuclear war fears escalated to their highest since the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, 20 years earlier.

The Soviet-Afghan War spawned - with U.S. money and weapons - the Mujahideen.  This, in turn, supposedly led to Al Qaeda, and many current problems for the USA.

And now, 20 years after the Seoul Olympics, the most dangerous confrontation which could easily lead to war is the push by the Israelis to attack Iran, so as to keep them from obtaining a "nuclear weapon capability," an ambiguous term at best.  Interesting that in the Olympiad that concludes today, The Islamic Republic of Iran had four Gold, five Silver and three Bronze medals; the Jewish State of Israel - for the first time since 1988, had no medals at all.  But there were Jewish athletes on the teams of many Western nations, including that of the USA.  And there were Muslim athletes on the teams of many Western nations.

Perhaps some day in the future we will see an Olympiad at which the Iranian national team contains Jewish athletes from their vibrant Jewish population, and the Israeli team contains many Palestinian Israelis, from their non-Jewish Christian and Muslim population.

Hopefully, we can avoid an insane war between Israel and Iran, just as in the 1980s we avoided an insane war between the USSR and the USA.

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