Three awards

A Euro Zone Olympic team?

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Jul 13, 2012    •    574 Views

Sharing a larger and more varied pool of European talent was supposed to create an economic synergy. Starting with the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951, the first step was free trade. Nations were added, trade barriers disappeared, and by 2002, they had their monetary union.

What next? Does an Olympic union make sense?

In a report on the economics of the Olympics, Goldman Sachs asks if a euro zone team would win more medals than the 17 member nations took home separately.

For the “yes” side, they point out that the pool of talent would multiply, athletes might train harder because of fewer spots, and more resources would be supporting a single goal. In addition, because athletes would have to choose events more selectively, they would only compete in their best sport.

On the other hand, when East and West Germany combined their talent, the results were mixed and tough to evaluate because other variables changed (like China’s increased competitiveness).  As a specific example, the report points out that a unified Germany fared worse in football but better with hockey. Also, national pride and cheering home crowds might make a big difference. Finally, small countries tend to target one event with huge resources.

Their conclusion? The key to capturing the benefits of a euro team relates their current problems. Whether looking at the Olympics or monetary union, euro zone nations need more success optimizing the benefits of their union and minimizing its negatives.

Using Goldman’s medal chart from the 2008 Olympics, here is how euro zone nations compared with the US and China:

2008 Beijing Olympic Medal Winners (Euro Zone, US and People’s Republic of China)

Gold Silver Bronze Total
Germany 16 10 15 41
Italy 8 9 10 27
France 7 16 18 41
Netherlands 7 5 4 16
Spain 5 10 3 18
Slovakia 3 2 1 6
Slovenia 1 2 2 5
Finland 1 1 2 4
Belgium 1 1 0 2
Estonia 1 1 0 2
Portugal 1 1 0 2
Greece 0 2 2 4
Austria 0 1 2 3
Ireland 0 1 2 3
Luxembourg NA
Malta NA
Cyprus NA
Euro Zone Total 174
USA 36 38 36 110
People’s Republic of China 51 21 28 100


The Goldman report, “The Olympics and Economics 2012,” is interesting. But here, the Telegraph disagrees with its conclusions. And here is a concise timeline history of the euro zone.

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