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Adjusted for population, Ireland came fourth in the Paralympics

We’ve crunched through the Paralympics medal table to reveal just how well Ireland really did…

Jason Smyth, Mark Rohan and Michael McKillop each show off their two Paralympic gold medals.
Jason Smyth, Mark Rohan and Michael McKillop each show off their two Paralympic gold medals.
Image: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

WE’RE ALL AWARE of the phenomenal medal haul achieved by Ireland’s representatives at the 2012 Paralympic Games, which amounts to Ireland’s best medal haul for a quarter of a century.

But we’ve had a quick re-crunching of the numbers – and it turns out that the Irish of 2012 really were among the best in the world.

When adjusting the medal count to consider the population of each country, Ireland does far better than the 19th place it took in the outright table. In fact, the athletes of Ireland come fourth.

The haul of eight golds, three silvers and five bronze medals adds to a total of 16. When split among the population of just under 6.4 million (the all-island team includes athletes from both the Republic and the North) it means one medal per 399,947 people.

Only three countries can better that: Iceland (whose solitary medal, a gold, is split among the population of 320,000), Australia (85 medals for a population of 22.7 million) and New Zealand (4.4 million people, 17 medals).

When including only golds, Ireland is still fourth behind the same countries: Iceland tops the list, with Australia’s 32 golds putting it second and New Zealand’s six medals ranking it in third.

If we change the table and rank it by the wealth of each country (expressed in this case as its GDP, or the size of its economy) then we’re still well above average – coming in at a respectable 14th place in the cash-for-gold table.

IMF figures for 2011 show that Ireland (or, at least, the Republic of Ireland) produced $217.7 billion of goods. If you were to link this to the performance of our athletes, you could then say each gold had ‘cost’ Ireland $27.2 billion.

That’s much more than the $3.46 billion that Fiji paid for its solitary gold medal, but significantly less than the price of a gold for China ($76.8 billion), Great Britain ($71.1 billion) or the United States ($486.9 billion).

Proof, if you thought you still needed it, that Ireland’s Paralympians really are among the best on the planet.

Gallery: Welcome home! Ireland’s medal-laden Paralympic heroes return

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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