Medals, mettle and meddling: our review of the week

How to measure success at the Olympics and harsh words for Hillary Clinton in Nigeria

Michael Fitzgerald By Michael Fitzgerald

At the week’s end, we look at coverage of some of the biggest stories connecting the U.S. and the rest of the world. This week, the world was watching as the Olympic Games reached their climax.

And the gold medal goes to: Grenada!

Hype, glory and controversy—it wouldn’t be the Olympics without each. But as the U.S. and China jostle to stand on the figurative top of the podium for winning the most medals (the U.S. surged ahead on Thursday, with three days to go), it may be the wrong way to measure success. Australia’s The Conversation, trying to find some silver lining in the Aussies’ worst Olympic showing in years, found some slight solace in an alternate measure assembled by The Guardian. The British news organization has developed ways to measure medals by team size, GDP and population. Verdict? Neither China nor the U.S. is a star performer if you adjust for their massive populations (the U.S. is the world’s third-most populous nation) and outsized economies.

The London Olympics draw to a close this week. (Reuters)

No, the top performers by these measures are countries like Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand and North Korea. Australia can take heart that on a per capita basis, it sits in 9th place.

Remember last year?

Meanwhile, in The Hindu, a column noted that just a year ago, “London was burning as anger over the death of a black youth in a police shoot-out spiraled into one of the worst riots in England for a generation.”

Now, British athletes like Jessica Ennis, whose father is Jamaican, and Somali-born Mohammed Farah are being hailed, even by Prime Minister David Cameron. That has The Hindu’s Hasan Suroor scratching his head.

“Many are mystified by the Prime Minister’s conversion and asking whether he is the same man who had warned that ‘passive tolerance’ of multiculturalism was an invitation to extremism, and argued for a more ‘muscular’ approach,” Suroor writes. He sees Cameron as opportunistic. But he hopes that good feelings about Britain’s numerous multicultural stars might mute some of the sneering about the ills of a “multi-culti” society.

One country that’s getting no break thanks to the Games is Syria. Its ten Olympic athletes have been unable to distract the country from bloodshed and fighting, as Frank Harris noted in The Hartford Courant.

And the gold medal for the longest campaign…..

The U.S. presidential campaign seems to have been going ad infinitum and we haven’t even hit the conventions yet. It’s almost enough to make us wish for the nice, compact parliamentary elections held in many other democracies. Here, it’s easy to get inured to the candidates. But overseas, the press sees with fresher eyes. And as this round-up by Latitude News’ very own Jack Rodolico shows, the foreign press mostly feel disgruntled about both Obama and Romney, one for failing to live up to his promise, the other for promising anything.

Corrupt? We’ll show you corrupt

Obama’s former rival for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton, is of course now his Secretary of State. Clinton is visiting Africa this week. Her stop in Nigeria sparked harsh words from a human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, who blasted the U.S. for hypocrisy when it comes to corruption. Falana, speaking at a workshop on the problems of money-laundering, accused U.S. officials of publicly shaking their heads at corruption in Africa while winking at corrupt behavior by American firms. Falana cited as evidence close to $1 billion in fines paid by American firms in recent years.

“While we do not condone corruption, it is high time the Obama administration was told to stop blaming the victims of grand corruption promoted and fuelled (sic) by western countries led by Switzerland, France, United Kingdom and United States,’’ Falana said.

Falana may be a paragon of virtue, and he obviously has a point. Even so, given the corruption going on within Nigeria itself, it’s hard not to think of the old saw about the pot and the kettle.