China’s victory in the gold-medal race in 2008 was supposed to herald the arrival of the newest Olympic superpower, a vast country with 1.3 billion people and a proven government-sponsored training program. Even at the U.S. Olympic Committee headquarters in Colorado Springs, there was a growing sense that China would win the most gold and overall medals in 2012.
Instead, London should vindicate America’s decentralized and entrepreneurial approach to developing the world’s best athletes. The Wall Street Journal’s projections show Team U.S.A.’s 530 athletes should leave London with 40 gold medals and 108 overall, topping the Chinese, who are projected to collect 38 gold medals and 92 overall.
“China’s victory in the gold medal race in 2008” was the result of their being able to spam the Olympics hosted in their own country with thousands of participants. A country hosting the games has hardly any restrictions on the number of athletes it can deploy on its own home turf.
But don’t count your medals before they hatch.