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Who's Ruling The Games? So Far, It's China


As Tom mentioned, Great Britain has yet to bring home gold. Athletes from China are leading the medal count so far. NPR's Howard Berkes has been counting medals, and joins us now from London. Good morning, Howard.

HOWARD BERKES, BYLINE: Good morning, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: Howard, this is the third full day of competition. China has 13 medals overall, seven golds. Team USA is tied with them, having 13 medals overall, three golds. And way down the list is the host country, Great Britain, with two medals so far. Isn't there supposed to be some kind of a medals bump for the home team?

BERKES: Generally, that happens. You know, historically, when bigger countries, at least, have hosted the Olympics, China dominated in Beijing, the United States has hoarded medals in just about every games its hosted. And Great Britain did really well in 1908 when it first hosted the Olympics here in London, with 56 gold medals alone back then, a better-than-average haul. But in 1948, when London last hosted the games, Team Great Britain was way down in the pack.

WERTHEIMER: Now, it's only day three, so there's plenty of time for the medals count to change. What has Great Britain done in advance of the Olympics to boost the host country's hopes for these games?

BERKES: The host country has spent an enormous amount of money - about half-a-billion dollars - on athlete development and training. And this is also typical, you know, for host countries. Canada did it before Vancouver. The United States did it before Salt Lake City. And China, of course, spent who knows how many gazillions of yuan to make sure the Chinese national anthem was played so often four years ago in Beijing that we could all sing it by heart. And there's also the fact that, you know, when you have a host country, it's preparing for the Olympics for seven years. So they're building facilities in advance. There's a lot of pre-Olympic excitement. So, the athlete pool kind of gets bigger in that time, and maybe it gets better.

WERTHEIMER: You know, Howard, whenever we talk about the medal count, we get lots of emails about how the numbers of medals don't matter. It's the individual athletic performance we should care about, the achievement of just getting to the games that we should care about. And, of course, we do.

BERKES: We do.

WERTHEIMER: But are you hearing from Londoners about how Great Britain is doing?

BERKES: There's a lot of pent-up expectation here, a lot of anticipation for Team GB. You know, when that first gold medal comes, we'll hear cheers and singing rolling out of the pubs. You know, back in 1896, in fact, Greece wanted to make sure it would win gold at the first modern Olympics. So they created an event just for the Greek Navy, the 100-meter swim. You know, the first gold medal for Great Britain, when it comes, it's going to be big, and it will inspire other athletes to dig deeper.

WERTHEIMER: Howard, thank you.

BERKES: You're welcome, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's Howard Berkes is covering the Olympics in London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's senior national correspondent, Linda Wertheimer travels the country and the globe for NPR News, bringing her unique insights and wealth of experience to bear on the day's top news stories.
Howard Berkes is a correspondent for the NPR Investigations Unit.

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