And while Russia's 88 medals in Sydney may have put it in second place behind the old enemy's 97, that's only because Moscow lost most of its empire in the last decade. Add only the 17 medals snagged by tiny Belarus or the Ukraine's 23, and the ex-Reds were way out on top. To those add the smaller hauls by Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, and the former Soviet Union took home a staggering 163 medals. But hey, they lost the Cold War, and that means we won the Olympics. Nyah nyah.
But the surviving commies in Cuba didn't do half badly. They may have failed to lift the prized baseball gold from the Yanquis, but finished in eighth place overall with 29 medals a remarkable achievement for an impoverished country of 11 million people. Indeed, if each country's medal haul is divided by its population size in millions (which is, after all, its pool of available talent), Cuba comes out the second-place country over all with a remarkable 2.6 ratio. The runaway winners, of course, would be Australia, whose 58 medals divided among 18 million people would give it the winning ratio of 3.2. Tied in third place would be another two former communist countries, Belarus and Hungary, whose 17 medals and 10 million people gives them a ratio of 1.7. Behind them come the Netherlands (25 medals for 15.7 million people) with a ratio of 1.67 and Rumania (26 medals and 22 million people) with 1.2. Of the top three medal-winning countries, Russia leads with 0.59, compared with the U.S. haul of 0.35 and China's lowly 0.04.
Although the whole of Africa collectively took home 34 medals, the same as seventh-place Italy, that also doesn't tell the whole story of that continent's Olympic prowess. The African diaspora the descendants of slaves shipped to the New World and émigré former colonial subjects accounted for masses more. How many of the U.S. medals, for example, were won by people of African origin? Well, let's see: There's most of the Dream Team and the women's basketball team; there's Marion Jones; there's Maurice Greene... need we go on? And it's not just the U.S. either. A substantial number of the medals snagged by countries as diverse as Britain and Brazil, Cuba and Canada, France and Jamaica and a lot more, were won by athletes of African origins. But hey, who's counting?