I’m not sure how many Jewish Olympians there are, but Aly Raisman is one of them. 18 years old, from Massachusetts. Yesterday, she won the gold medal in the women’s floor event to the tune of Hava Nagila – a classic Hebrew folk song. Well done Aly and hoping for a repeat at the 2016 Olympics.
Aly also won a gold in the gymnastics team event as part of the US team and a bronze in the balance beam event.
This leads me onto another question I’ve been wondering about, how do Jews perform at the Olympics in general? Clearly, sport isn’t a strong area for Jews. If you want to find the Jews in sport, it’s usually the owners of sports teams you have to look at. But, nonetheless, do Jews over-perform or under-perform at sports compared to what is expected?
About 1 in 500 people in the world are Jewish and there are 300 events at the 2012 London Olympics. According to Wikipedia there were approximately 4700 medals produced for this year’s Olympic games (including this year’s Paralympics). Remember, in many events there may be many medals awarded (due to team events) and there are at least three medals for every event. So if Jews were expected to win 1 in 500 medals, we’d only expect them to win 10 medals in total, which I can imagine they probably do (well Aly Raisman has three already).
Looking at things like this however does the skew the picture a bit. We probably shouldn’t be counting large parts of Asia and Africa in our numbers. Jews should probably be winning about 1 in 200 medals (this is totally my own estimate). That would be about 24 of the 4700 medals produced. Do Jews win that many medals? Probably. Doesn’t sound like a lot of medals to win, but I don’t really know.
This discussion is a bit silly though. At the end of the day, it’s pretty clear Jews haven’t done exceptionally well at sport historically and they probably haven’t done exceptionally poorly either.
This discussion does sort of highlight just how small the world Jewish population is. Slightly crazy when you consider all the Jewish success (imagine if Jewish nobel laureates were as rare as Jewish olympic medalists) and how there are people like Ahmadinejad who see the Jews (or the Zionists) as the world’s biggest problem. We’re one five-hundredth of the world’s population. Leave us alone already. I suppose it is quite a complement to be considered so important despite our smallness.