After the breakup, who gets to keep the gold medals? That's the question some sports fans are asking themselves after a European Union website included British medals in a table that boasted of the EU besting both the United States and China in the Olympics medal count.
Despite the lofty themes of the opening ceremony, fans realize that the Olympics is about medals—and who has the most of them. To help European fans keep track, Euro Informationen, a German company which works for both the European Commission and the European Parliament, created MedalTracker.eu.
What the site shows, however, has British fans in a tizzy.
Euro Informationen's table shows the EU standing at the top of the medals podium, with 88 gold, 85 silver, and 89 bronze medals from the Rio games. The overall count of 262 medals more than doubles that of the United States, which was 100 at the time of publication.
Adding irony to insult, the bulk of the block's medal count comes from its most recent ex-member. Twenty-two of the 88 gold medals "won" by the EU were in fact awarded to British athletes, who performed particularly well in track, cycling, and rowing. Britain is second only to the United States in overall medals won at the Rio games.
Unlike our "more perfect union," the European Union is not officially a country. No athlete competes for the EU, nor stands tearfully on the winner's podium watching as the blue flag with its circle of stars is raised to the gentle strains of a suitably unifying anthem. While the website may list the EU under the heading "nations," it's really anything but.
British athletes and politicians are already upset that the site erases their achievements.
"Where was the EU in the early hours of the morning when our amazing athletes were training?" said Jane Collins, a member of the European Parliament from the UKIP party, who stressed that the medals were Britain's success, not Europe's. "It was UK National Lottery money which helped them develop into the world class athletes who have made this country proud."
"The only way the EU would win in a race is if there was a big pot of taxpayers' cash at the finish line," she said.
The table does concede that it is "not entirely fair" to countries outside the EU, since, with 28 members, the EU has a "much higher quota of starting positions than individual competing nations."