PwC on Why Chinese Win Medals and Indians Don't

Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on June 25, 2008

Readers of this blog sometimes like to point to the dearth of Indian Olympic medal winners as some kind of big reflection of the country’s problems. Surely if India had its act together, the reasoning goes, then Indians would, like Chinese athletes, win lots of gold medals at the games. The argument is silly on its face; if Olympic success was such a great indicator of national greatness, then East Germany would still be around as a country today.

Some economists at PricewaterhouseCoopers who seem to have a lot of time on their hands decided to have some fun and make predictions about the Beijing games that start in August. Using as their criteria past performance, economics and political planning, they not surprisingly conclude that host country China will win a lot of medals. Conveniently, their number crunching has China winning 88 medals; 8 of course is a lucky number in China and the Games themselves start on the 8th day of the 8th month of 2008.

All those auspicious 8s, however, won’t do much to help India’s team, according to PwC, which projects a grand total of six medals for Indian athletes. The country is, in the firm’s words, “a significant underachiever,” having won just one medal in Sydney and in Athens. What gives? China may have moved away from old-style central planning for its economy but still emulates the old Eastern bloc model of sports factories focusing on Olympics sports. Not so in India. “The most plausible explanation is that, with the exception of hockey, Indian sport tends to be focused on events that are not included in the Olympics, most importantly cricket,” says PwC.

In other words, when it comes to sports India is a free market. And it just so happens that the Indian market doesn’t much care for basketball, swimming and track & field, not to mention Greco-Roman wrestling, kayaking, synchronized swimming and other more obscure Olympic sports. To its credit, the Indian government also has decided that it shouldn’t be wasting money nurturing athletes who can compete globally in these things. Something Indian sports fans should remember in August when they grow tired of hearing other countries’ national anthems at the awards ceremonies.

Reader Comments

Andy

June 25, 2008 2:53 PM

China produced her athletes just like she build her infrastructure. Build it first, and profit will follow. Give the fans the gold medal first, and the sport will become popular in China. It is about how far you can go. If you never try it, how can you know if you're good at it. Besides, the training system may still resemble those of the eastern block, but the reward system is already more like the western free market system. Today the Chinese athletes compete not only for national glory, but also for commercial ads sponsorship.


Too bad, just like the Indian government officials don't really care about the infrastructure, they also don't really care about national pride and sporting development of their country.

Downs

June 25, 2008 5:26 PM


Those who are not afraid of competing against the best in whatever domain would likely have more chance to come out on top or come out stronger even if they lose the competition. I hope that Indian's significantly underachieving athletics does not reflect its nation's mentality about competition.

Indian should take PWC's fun seriously.

JibaLama

June 25, 2008 9:55 PM

Every government, every country has the right to choose. If Indians and Indian government do not care about winning medals, why do we even care about talking abount it?

Andy

June 26, 2008 2:10 AM

China has a billion more citizens, surely it is a very big market and there is space for every sport to be popular. Sport is not just good for your health and national pride, it is also good for business. Imagine how much sport shoes and equipment can be sold if more sport become popular with people. Surely India which has a billion more citizens has the potential to capitalize the sporting event too if and only if they have the will to do it.

Eric

June 26, 2008 1:03 PM

India lacks the will to compete with the best in the world stage. That's why India will never become a significant county in the world.

achimus

June 27, 2008 2:42 AM

“India conquered and dominated China culturally for 20 centuries without ever having to send a single soldier across her border.”Hu Shih, former Ambassador of China to USA.

India may never ever win as many medals as China does but India will be significant nation on many fronts.

Asish

June 27, 2008 4:49 AM

I heard that Chinese are now trying to train an army of cricketers. Now that will be fun. Is there anything that Chinese do without being ordered to do?

jobie

June 27, 2008 12:22 PM

Eric,

You are just mixing politics and international relations with sports.

How does India lack the will to compete? Economically, India has invested a lot and has been working towards becoming a massive economic force.

Also relating to sports, India recently won the 20-20 Cricket Tournament, an INTERNATIONAL competition.

Most Indians favor cricket and hockey and do not have a taste for other sports. Why would you capitalize on a sport that Indians do not prefer? That's like asking China to capitalize on cricket or American football.

Besides, the Indian government is now working to ensure stable and strong economic growth, bring better agricultural methods to farmers, and patch up their infrastructural problems. It makes sense for China to invest in producing world-class sports teams since it is hosting the Olympics.

Andy

July 1, 2008 1:45 AM

@Asish, too bad there is no order in India, only chaos and anarchy.

Wang

July 3, 2008 2:07 AM

Asish,

Nonsense. Try to visit China first then make comments.

Chinese are not ordered to laugh at people like you who hold the ridiculous and ignorant opionion on a nation he/she actually knows nothing. But they do look down upon you.

eddy

August 9, 2008 4:34 AM

china is just a better nation. thats all.

Rajo

August 19, 2008 8:06 AM

Your arguments reminded me of a joke between an Indian and a British man.
They we arguing at a bar so the Bristh told the Indian "we conquered your country for 200 years”, the Indian replies "but we F**ked your language for ever"

DVA

September 26, 2008 12:27 AM

Yes Eddy...better in many ways including killing their own kind and people at large. There are no ethics/moral values there, so much so they'd even kill their own kind just to make a buck. Everything there is immitation..cheap stuff and even dangerous to health...even something like eggs. So much so..a friend of mine told me.."if you go to china, you better make sure the taxi driver is a real person and not some cheap chinese made robot".

Chris

October 9, 2008 1:59 AM

Is murdering minority indian groups by majority indian hindus the lastest indian sport...indians murdering indians under the watchful eyes of indian policemen ?
Unfortunately for the indian hindus, the IOC don't award Gold medals in the Olympics for the best killing,rape and flaming of Christians,women,priests, etc.Otherwise, india would have scored many more gold medals.
India...Biggest democracy in the world? My foot!

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Bloomberg Businessweek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies.

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