20th August 2021

Manipulating and exploiting medal tables: an example of the continued commoditisation of athletes…and also fraud

At the recent summer Olympic Games in Japan, 1,080 podium places (340 Gold, 338 Silver, and 402 Bronze) were allocated across 339 events awarding medals1. A total of 2,401 medals were awarded to 1,996 individuals as some events have shared medals (e.g. boxing has shared Bronze medals2) and everyone who competes in team events3 (e.g. gymnastics) and preliminary heats4 (e.g. swimming) receives a medal if their team medals. There were also 168 multi-medallists who won 405 medals5.

A trend has occurred across the globe where the medals table standings6 are manipulated by using the following equation:

If [Insert institution treating individuals as commodities] was a country, it would be ranked [insert distorted number based on 1,080 podium places and not individuals] in the Olympic medals table.  

This blatant commoditisation of athletes can be seen across society by journalists7, politicians8, governing bodies9, and countless others, with often the same individuals10 being claimed multiple times11. A tenuous relationship makes for a precarious one.

Even colleges and universities12, who should appreciate the importance of accurate evidence more than most, engage in such Machiavellian tactics through the rise of ‘fake academia’. In other walks of life, such ‘cooking the books’ is considered fraud.

It is, indeed, important to be proud of the accomplishments of talented individuals. But the source of that pride is up to the individual concerned.


1. https://olympics.com/tokyo-2020/olympic-games/en/results/all-sports/medalists.htm
2. https://www.sportingnews.com/au/boxing/news/two-bronze-medals-why-are-there-no-bronze-medal-boxing-matches-at-the-olympics/2lkyhzkt3vsj1ckd93jvxtcoj
3. https://www.insider.com/simone-biles-teammates-say-their-silver-medal-win-feels-like-gold-2021-7
4. https://swimswam.com/swimswam-psa-prelim-swimmers-earn-relay-medals/
5. https://olympics.com/tokyo-2020/olympic-games/en/results/all-sports/multi-medalists.htm
6. https://olympics.com/tokyo-2020/olympic-games/en/results/all-sports/medal-standings.htm
7. https://www.newsweek.com/two-thirds-us-olympic-medalists-are-female-other-crazy-numbers-tokyo-1617333
8. https://www.alloaadvertiser.com/opinion/19487108.keith-brown-celebrate-successes-build-future/
9. https://twitter.com/BUCSsport/status/1425079459099590679
10. https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/greater-manchesters-place-medal-table-21257890
11. https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2021/aug/09/north-west-england-wins-more-medals-team-gb-than-other-region-tokyo-olympics
12. https://georgiadogs.com/news/2021/8/8/swimming-diving-georgia-finishes-olympics-with-11-medals.aspx

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