One interesting element of the Olympic medal table is that there isn't a consensus on how to judge it. The International Olympic Committee doesn't officially recognize a ranking, so while the default sorting system used in the IOC's published tables (ranking countries by golds won) is used by many countries and media outlets, others prefer to go with total medals, and there's no real "right" answer. That opens up the floor for plenty of debate. For example, in 2010, plenty of Canadian outlets saw Canada's Winter Olympic-record 14 gold medals as putting the country first in the final standings, but many American outlets preferred the total medal standings, which put the U.S. in the lead with 37 total medals (ahead of Germany's 30 and Canada's 26).
How do things look this time around? Well, you can see updated medal totals here (by golds) or here (by total medals), and as of 1 p.m. Eastern Thursday, Canada was in fifth in both rankings with six golds, nine silvers and four bronze medals for nineteen total medals. (In case of a tie in golds, further sorting is done by silver medals, then bronze medals). Things get even more interesting if you play around with some different ways of ranking medals, though. What about if we combine the total and gold systems by assigning point values for each type of medal? Here's how that looks with gold at 12, silver at six and bronze at three:
That produces results reasonably similar to ranking by gold, except for Germany, Belarus and Poland taking hits thanks to their lack of other medals. Think that system rewards gold too heavily? What about if we do it at gold at nine, silver at six and bronze at three?
Interestingly enough, that's pretty close to the 12-6-3 rankings, except for Russia jumping ahead of the U.S. thanks to their additional silvers. What if we try five points for gold, three for silver and one for bronze?
This one has some notable changes, including Canada jumping up from fifth to fourth ahead of the Netherlands thanks to the diminished value of all the bronze medals the Dutch have won. (Technically, Canada would be tied for third with the U.S. on points, but the U.S. still has more golds.) No matter how you value medals, though, there's no way to put Canada in first at the moment. (Boosting silver medals above golds would jump Canada into second, but Russia has the same number of silvers and golds, plus more bronze medals.) The tables illustrate how plenty of logical medal ranking systems can display different results, though, and there are other fun ways to go with this. Steve Faguy of The Montreal Gazette played around with some alternate ways to divide the medals, including the Roman Empire, the Soviet Union, Quebec as a separate entity, American blue and red states and more. Here's what he came up with:
— Steve Faguy (@fagstein) February 19, 2014
Those Romans, really dominating the world and the Games still. Guess Edward Gibbon was wrong about their decline and fall. Meanwhile, Quebec beats the rest of Canada in golds, but not in total medals, and both West and East Germany have more golds than non-Quebec Canada. Even without Quebec, though, Canada would still have more medals than Yugoslavia, but the same amount of golds as French biathlete Martin Fourcade. Regardless of how you decide to sort your medals, however, more are going to be required for Canada to own the podium.