Who Wins the Olympics if History Never Happens?


Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

Photo: Srineet/Flickr

It is common knowledge at this point that the United States of America is the greatest country in the world, which was verified after the Americans won the Olympics. (104 medals, 46 golds, y'all.) Other perks for winning the Olympics: ownership of the sun, blueprints for Leonardo da Vinci’s time machine, the ability to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time, and a chimenea filled with mayonnaise. All pretty objectively awesome things. However, this would all be completely untrue if the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics still existed. Over at Foreign Policy, Joshua Keating writes:

“If you add up all 13 countries you get 163 medals—well ahead of the U.S. total of 104. The USSR would have been awarded 46 golds—tied with the red, white, and blue. With 16.9 percent of the total medals, the hypothetical Soviet Union would have nearly tied the real Soviet Union's haul of 17.8 percent in 1988.”

But the Soviet Union isn’t the only country in the world that no longer exists/wasn’t represented in London. How would some other crumpled empires and imaginary nation-states have fared? Will Cookson added up the totals for some of the world’s no-longer-empires.

THE SPANISH EMPIRE: 34 golds, 124 medals. That would’ve been good enough for third-best in London. Imaginary third place is something to be proud of, Spain! It’s better than the soccer team did.

THE BRITISH EMPIRE: 56 golds, 185 medals. This barely would’ve beaten the U.S. for first in London. But hey, this is also basically revenge for the Revolutionary War, guys. Good job, people who never existed in the first place!

THE MONGOL EMPIRE: 78 golds, 230 medals. It’s frightening, the thought of a still-existing Mongol Empire, so let’s maybe just move on before I wake up from a fever dream in which Genghis Khan tries to teach me how to use a pommel horse and grow a mustache … at the same time.

THE ROMAN EMPIRE: 87 golds, 233 medals. Compare this to the 28 total medals won by Italy and realize how completely pointless all of this is.

So, continuing on with that, here are some more hypothetical (depending on who you believe—if you even know who to believe anymore) medal-winning Olympic entrants:

THE MOON: Newt Gingrich was unable to compete in London 2012 after Bobbing For Apples, despite vigorous protests, was once again denied a place in the Olympics. Sorry moon, but you would’ve finished with zero medals and zero golds. Maybe get an atmosphere that’s more conducive to human life next time.

ATLANTIS: Four golds and two silvers for the underground sea empire, which, suspiciously, no one has yet to confirm doesn’t exist. If anything, the existence of Michael Phelps is pretty much indisputable truth that Atlantis is a real place.

USAIN BOLT: From what I can tell, Usain Bolt formed from Usain Bolt, making him both planet and being, completely blurring the lines between, well, everything. He was spawned by himself and only races against himself. Basically, Usain Bolt is the one thing in the world that actually, verifiably exists. Despite rearranging origin theory, astronomical chemistry, and anything else that has ever happened on Earth, Usain Bolt only won three golds, putting him somewhere between North Korea and Tunisia in the medal table.

PANGEA: ALL THE MEDALS. Pangea would’ve been the best country in the world. It’s a shame, really. Stupid passage of time.