Olympics Day 11 - Artistic Gymnastics
Jonathan Ferrey  /  Getty Images
Gymnast Li Xiaopeng, middle, on the medal stand with silver medalist Yoo Wonchul of South Korea and bronze medalist Anton Fokin of Uzbekistan after winning one of China's gold medals.
msnbc.com contributor
updated 8/23/2008 12:17:06 AM ET 2008-08-23T04:17:06

This is an ongoing series of Olympics cultural reports Sunny Wu is filing from Beijing. Check back twice a day for 'The Buzz' and 'Nightlife.'

China is striking gold at the Olympics. The host country has hauled in 46 golds so far — 16 more than the runner-up, the United States. The newspaper China Daily lists the medal count each day with China ahead of the U.S. and Great Britain.

But if you check the medal counts in newspapers and Web sites in the U.S., the Americans take the top spot based on total medals.

So what's the proper method to tally medals? Golds or total? Does it even matter? I hit the Olympic Green to ask fans — Chinese, Americans, a few Europeans — what they thought.

For some Chinese, it was all about the gold, which wasn't a surprise.

Wang Bo Wen: "We have only one goal: the gold medal. So only the gold medal counts ... Every country varies, but in China, only the gold medal counts."

Zou Sha Li: "Of course it should be based on gold medals. The American method doesn't count. China is No. 1."

Zhang Zhen: "Of course the gold medals. Because when you win the gold meal, you can see the national flag and hear the national anthem."

But some answers from Chinese fans were more nuanced.

Xu Tao: "We should give each medal a score. Like three points for gold, two for silver and one for bronze. Add them up and get the winner. It shouldn't just be based on gold medals or total medals."

Gao Ming Jian: "Everything should be taken into account. The medals and the performances. Like (hurdler) Liu Xiang, who was injured before the Olympics. He still came out and tried to compete. The Games should be judged on the overall experience."

An American, Norman Wang from San Jose, Calif., echoed Xu's answer: "I think the gold should have a point, like a higher point system. For example, the gold (is worth) five points, the silver three points and the bronze one (point). And then sum it up that way. That would be a better way.

Even if you play go-kart racing, like Mario Kart, the gold is worth more. The silver is second, then third. Then you add them all up and you compete with other people with the total score."

But the other two Americans asked said the medal count shouldn't be the focus of the Olympics.

Dennis Skalman from Los Angeles: "I'm more for the athletes. I'm don't really pay attention that much to the medals ... but my friend said that China would end up with more medals. And I bet him that the U.S. would have more total medals. So we have that little bet going ... but I'm here more for the competition and all athletes and all countries. I don't really get excited or won't get bothered if China beats us in the medal count."

Slideshow: Emotional moments Phillip Robles from Chicago: "The purpose of the Olympics is not to count the medals, the purpose of the Olympics is to compete. We went to swimming yesterday and there was a swimmer who finished 10 minutes late. And he finished. Everyone cheered him. It was raining, it was terrible weather. I think the medal count is a U.S. phenomenon that is incorrect. The correct measure of the Olympics is to just compete and finish."

Finally, what did Europeans think of the U.S.-China tug-of-war?

Penny Mills from London: "By the gold. Because we're third in the table and we're beating Australia. We don't get many golds so we're doing well."

Ian Mills (her husband): [The U.S. is counting by total medals] because it's to their benefit on the table. Any right-thinking person would do it by the gold medals first. It's always been done by the gold medals. It's just the Americans being Americans."

Emmauel Walter from France: "The proper way it to count by gold medals. The importance is to be No. 1. I don't think (counting the total) is correct."

Mette Forsmann from Denmark: "We don't have that many medals so everything counts. And we don't have an opinion regarding China and the U.S. on who's the best. It doesn't matter for us."

NBC translator Joy Li Le contributed to this report.

Sunny Wu will be writing for msnbc.com throughout the Beijing Olympics. He can be reached at sunny.k.wu@gmail.com. You can follow more of his exploits at http://meiguoren.wordpress.com/.


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