We took a look at the countries with the top 20 overall medal count (As of the end of August 17, 2016) to see how they compare in terms of their population. We found some interesting results. There are currently only 4 countries that have a better than a 1 medal / 1 million people ratio: New Zealand, Denmark, Hungary, and Australia.
The UEFA European Championship returns June 10th this year at venues across France. For those not familiar with the soccer tournament, it is hosted every 4 years in between World Cups, and currently features 24 teams who qualified from across Europe. This will be the third time France has hosted the event, hosting the inaugural event in 1960, and again in 1984. Spain, the current champions from 2012, has had the most success in the history of the tournament, winning 3 times, the same amount of titles as Germany. Having won the tournament the last time they hosted in 1984, France is the favorite this year, along with a strong German team.
This is also the first year that the UEFA European Championship has expanded from sixteen to twenty four teams, giving many more fans across Europe the chance to watch their beloved home sides. While there are some perennial favorites in the tournament, this season’s English Premier League champion Leicester City is evidence that anyone can win, however long the odds. We went to the foreign embassy staff here in Washington to get some insight into why they think their team can win the tournament this year.
Ambassador of Austria, HE Wolfgang A. Waldner: “Having competed numerous times in the FIFA world cup, it may come as a surprise that Austria has qualified for a EURO tournament for the first time ever! And what a resounding qualification it has been: With a commanding series of nine wins and one draw, Austria qualified without a single defeat in a very strong group. Furthermore, Austrian players were also hugely successful with their respective clubs: David Alaba won his fourth German Bundesliga title in a row with Bayern Munich, our team captain Christian Fuchs rose to fame with the unexpected English Premier League champion Leicester City, and Marc Janko and Aleksandar Dragovic won their leagues with Swiss FC Basel and Ukrainian Dynamo Kiev. These successes make Austria proud and prove how far we have come in recent years: From the modest FIFA ranking number 94 in 2007, Austria has risen like a Phoenix to the eleventh best team in the world today! Besides, not less than six players in Austria’s starting eleven have an immigrant background: With family roots in Angola, Bosnia, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Serbia or Turkey, all our players grew up and flourished in Austria, serving as a perfect illustration of modern Austria: A multitude of religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds forming one pluralistic society. And this summer, we will grow even closer together with our shared goal: Winning the EURO 2016!”
Economic Information Officer, Embassy of Belgium, Bart Deelen: “Belgium can not only win Euro2016, they should be considered one of the favorites to do so. The current Belgian team is known as Belgium’s Golden Generation. And for good reason: with few exceptions, many of the players are stars with some of Europe’s top teams. And on average the players have the highest salaries in the various European soccer competitions. Talent alone is not enough, of course. So it matters that Belgium has a well-balanced team, with a mix of experienced players and young talent. With many players that can score goals from different positions but also one of the best goalies worldwide. In addition, coach Marc Wilmots was known for his fighting spirit in his days as a player and he has managed to create some real team spirit on and off the field as well.”
Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia, H.E. Mr. Josip Paro: “CROATIA IS EURO 2016 DARK HORSE – With key players in the form of their lives, playing regularly in top European clubs, we expect to go far at Euro 2016 tournament. We have established ourselves as regulars on the big stage tournaments, and we are branded as a technically gifted nation that plays beautiful football. This generation is not an exception to that. Croatia has a really powerful squad; midfield position is arguably one of the strongest in the world with Real Madrid’s Modrić running the show. Despite the fact that we are a small nation, we have expectations for high achievement, and there is a general feeling that this new golden generation will flourish in France.”
Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of the Czech Republic, Jaroslav Zajicek: “Here is why the Czechs will win: In my country, football brings people to the streets. It is by far our number one sport in terms of popularity, and the players can feel the passionate support. Of course, we have some outstanding individuals like Petr Cech or Tomas Rosicky, but in our case it has always been mainly about the team spirit. I can sense the force is very strong with this team. Jedeeem!”
Ambassador of Germany, Peter Wittig: “1954, 1974, 1990, 2014 – with four World Cup stars on their jerseys, the German National Team is going into the 2016 Euro Cup with much to prove. A win in France this summer would mark the first time Germany has won in back-to-back international tournaments, a record that the returning national team players crave. A bit more than half of this year’s roster will look very familiar to anyone who tuned in two years ago: 14 players from the 2014 World Cup Roster returned to the roster of 23 for the Euro Cup and with names like Manuel Neuer, Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller, and Sami Khedira we certainly have an awesome team that also reflects the diversity of German society. We’ll be playing in Group C this year and eagerly anticipate our first games against Poland, Ukraine, and Northern Ireland. It’s going to be a great tournament and we’d like nothing more than to win it all in France!”
Ambassador of Great Britain, Sir Kim Darroch: “One might assume that the UK teams represented in Euro 2016 may not have the best odds. And indeed, it has been 50 years since a UK team last won a major international tournament. But there is one extremely compelling reason why the British Embassy will be celebrating this summer – we have three times more teams in the running, as England, Northern Ireland and Wales all qualified! And they are ranked 11, 25 and 26 in the world; so perhaps this is our time!”
Ambassador of Italy, Armando Varricchio: “The Azzurri, Italy’s national soccer team, are ready to amaze us. Three facts back my words: group unity, a winning coach (Antonio Conte) and a goalkeeper who is a living legend (Gianluigi “Gigi” Buffon, probably the greatest keeper ever). Four world titles and one European title truly make Italy a team to dread because - as its many trophies testify - their best performances are when the stakes are the highest. The final game in this French European Championship will be played exactly ten years after Italy's 2006 World Cup victory … against France. Giambattista Vico, an extraordinary philosopher, historian and Italian jurist of early eighteenth century, wrote that history is destined to repeat itself cyclically. Will that be true of soccer too? Of course, it won’t be easy. According to predictions and bettors, Italy has less chance of winning the European Championship than France, Germany, Spain, England and Belgium. Mission Impossible? Go and ask Leicester’s very own Italian coach, Claudio Ranieri. In return, he will give you a wry smile. Forza Azzurri!”
Head of the Northern Ireland’s Bureau in Washington DC, Norman Houston: “We’re absolutely delighted that the Northern Ireland football team are in France having qualified for the European Championship for the very first time. We’re also very pleased that we’ll be accompanied by our neighbours from the Republic of Ireland, Wales, and England. Northern Ireland go into the tournament on a tremendous run of 12 unbeaten games, the longest run of all the sides competing in EURO 2016. In reaching France, we became the first team seeded 5th to finish top of their qualifying group so we believe in defying the odds and we dare to dream! We have fond memories of our team over-achieving in the past especially when we beat hosts Spain 1-0 in the 1982 World Cup and put on a brave challenge against the mighty Brazil in the 1986 World Cup. Often to the bemusement of our opponents our fans, the Green and White Army, still like to sing that “We’re not Brazil, we’re Northern Ireland”, a song that epitomises our rich ironic humour! We offer our warmest congratulations and best wishes to manager Michael O’Neill and all his players – c’mon Northern Ireland!”
Ambassador of Poland, Ryszard Schnepf: “I am convinced that our White Eagles will soar to new heights during the 2016 Euros in France. As you may recall, Poland co-hosted the 2012 Euros, which were a tremendous success on all accounts except one: Poland’s soccer performance. Many fans including myself were left disappointed after Poland failed to advance out of the group stages, but 2016 will be different. Many of our most promising players in 2012 including our current captain Robert Lewandowski have matured into world-class talent. The fact that Lewandowski was the highest goal scorer during the 2016 Euro qualifiers speaks for itself. Throw in some fresh faces such as 22-year-old striker Arkadiusz Milik and Poland’s team looks ready to take on any opponent. 2016 will be Poland’s year - Go Polska!”
Ambassador of Portugal, Domingos Fezas Vital: “Having some of the best players in the world in its ranks – including the best of them - Portugal only has to make sure that the national team plays to their renown individual level. After a good performance in Euro 2012, the ambition of the Portuguese national team has already been set this summer by managers and players: reaching the final with the support of our fans all over the world, including from the vast Portuguese Diaspora all over France.”
Ambassador of Romania, George Maior: “There are no favorites in modern soccer! Maybe Romania’s odds to win the tournament could be better, but we have to remember that the same odds vanished when The United States hosted The World Cup back in 1994. Then, Romania advanced to the quarterfinals, by defeating the mighty Argentina and the whole world admired our national team’s ecstatic game. The 10th of June will be a special day for us, as we will open Euro 2016 against France. I am convinced that we will play a great game, and our fans all over the globe will support the team from the beginning to the end of the tournament. Go Romania! Hai Romania!”
Ambassador of Slovakia, Peter Kmec: “Slovakia performed very well in the qualifiers losing the first place only to incumbent champions Spain. It is our first Euro championship in the history of modern Slovakia. Therefore, the motivation and expectations are very high. Many Slovak fans will come to France to support the national team. Slovakia already surprised at the World Cup in South Africa 2010 where it progressed to the play-off stage with a victory over Italy. Now the team is even more seasoned and very ambitious so the potential for victory is definitely there. The core of the team is composed of players from international leagues, among them Hamsik, Skrtel, Kucka, to name just a few. The first step to success is to perform well in the group stage. Slovakia will be facing Wales, Russia and England. We hope to make it to the play-offs! Slovensko, do toho! (Let’s go Slovakia!)”
Ambassador of Spain, Ramon Gil-Casares: “In this year´s UEFA Euro, the Spanish National Team is faced with an important challenge: it is presented with the responsibility of defending its current title while simultaneously demonstrating that its new stars will be capable of maintaining the impressive quality of play that we all so enjoyed four years ago. This past weekend, the final match of the Champions League was played in Milan, featuring two Spanish teams, and two weeks ago, a Spanish team won the Europa League. Likewise, the UEFA Super Cup in 2015 was played between two teams from our League. Spanish soccer is of the highest caliber- we have created our own style and earned international recognition. There is an excess of reasons to believe that we will live up to these expectations, and I fully trust that we will once again win the championship hosted by our neighbor France.”
Ambassador of Sweden, Björn Lyrvall: “Sweden has Zlatan! We have a great Swedish team that does not only play fantastic soccer, but also very beautiful and fun soccer to watch. Soccer is in the Swedes DNA, it is the most popular sport in Sweden and something that you see all ages playing - it is not only about winning, but also about having fun!”
Ambassador of Switzerland, Martin Dahinden, and the Swiss Embassy Team: “ Switzerland’s chances in the tournament this year will hinge on two crucial factors, youth and team spirit. Switzerland has the third youngest team in the tournament and some veterans are off the final roster before the tournament. Younger players such as Denis Zakaria, Nico Elvedi and shooting star Breel Embolo – all only 19 years old – will be asked to step up in their place. Secondly, the team’s success depends on coach Vladimir Petkovic’s ability to build a strong unit out of 23 individually talented and diverse players. Why we can win? Because of statistics: Germany hosted the World Cup 2006. 8 years later they became world champions. Switzerland together with Austria hosted the EURO 2008. Now it is 8 years later. So we are 50% predestinated to win the tournament. On a more serious note, Switzerland benefits from being in what some are calling the easiest group, though we will have to face the home team, France. Our team may not win the group but has a great chance to advance as the second team from Group A. Supported by a huge crowd that will travel to our neighbor country; Switzerland will make its way to the final and win the tournament! Hopp Schwiiz!”
Embassy of Turkey: “It’s Not Over Until We Say So! This will be the slogan of the Turkish National Football Team in the Euro 2016. Why, because the Turkish National Team has enduring strength and the motivation to fight until the last minute. With the cultural and historic spirit not to give up even under the most difficult circumstances, the Turkish National Team has the courage and resilience to strike back, even at times when hope seems to be fading away. Turkey started poorly during the qualifying tournaments of both Euro 2008 and Euro 2016, but the continuing uncertainty was finally over when the last games were completed, and it successfully qualified out of the groups. Over the years, the Turkish National Team has been consistently strong and we believe this trend will continue in the Euro 2016. It has several inspirational players such as Arda Turan of F.C. Barcelona. In addition, a new generation of young Turkish players is empowering the team even further. 80 Million Turkish people, among the most enthusiastic football fans in Europe, will be fervently standing behind their national team. And most of all, Fatih Terim, the coach of the team, has proven himself at motivating the players when it is most needed.”
Ambassador of Ukraine, Valeriy Chaly: “Ukraine, a co-host of Euro2012, is carried into this year’s championship with the best wings in Europe. Our national team’s left-winger Yevhen Konoplyanka, who plays for the League of Europe’s Champion Sevilla FC and our right-winger Andriy Yarmolenko of Dynamo Kyiv, who is hunted by the best European clubs will undoubtedly lift the team up in scores, and can even bring us to the main prize. We also look forward to see the striker of Dnipro FC, Roman Zozulya scoring on the French ground. The Ukrainian team is one of the luckiest to have a true legend, one of the world’s best players, and a Golden Ball award winner in 2004, Andriy Shevchenko among the coaching crew. Shevchenko is a great inspiration to all of our team and a role model for many young players in Europe, and the world. The competition will be tough and we will face very strong rivals. But let us not forget that our team will carry up the spirit of a country that really knows the true meaning of a struggle and victory in a name of Ukraine. This championship is very important for the people of Ukraine, who have declared their European choice and continue to defend it on the eastern flank of Europe. And it is a good moment for Europe to demonstrate its solidarity with our country by welcoming people-to-people contacts through this all-European celebration of sport, spirit and tolerance.”
Welsh Government’s Representative in Washington DC, Gareth Morgan: “We’re tremendously excited in Wales that our national team has qualified for Euro 2016. We’ve waited a long time for Wales’ footballers to be able to display their skills on the world stage. We’ve qualified alongside two other teams from the United Kingdom - England and Northern Ireland - and having England in our group adds a bit of extra spice. Our team reflects Welsh values of hard work and supporting each other, and we’re lucky to have arguably the world’s best player in Gareth Bale, alongside players of the quality of Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen and Ashley Williams to name a few. Everyone in Wales and Welsh people all over the world will be firmly behind the team. Pob lwc Cymru - good luck Wales!”
My favorite embassy for events in Washington, DC is the Korean Cultural Center (KORUS House) on Massachusetts Avenue. My first visit to the KORUS House was for one of their monthly film screenings back in 2012, a movie named War of the Arrows. For those who may not know, Koreans are crazy about movies, selling 250 million tickets in 2014 from a country with only 50 million people. Also, many recent Korean films have been remade for American audiences (though the original Korean versions are always superior), including Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy. When many people think of Korean films they usually think of horror or action films but Korean cinema is very wide ranging with many romantic comedies. The KORUS house has played films from across all genres in the last couple years since I’ve been going there.
One of the best things about seeing films at the KORUS House is that they usually have food offerings before or after the film screenings, mainly traditional Korean dishes, some that I have a hard time finding in the Washington, DC area anywhere else.
Besides film showings the Korus House also has many art exhibitions open the public. Usually these exhibits feature contemporary Korean artists across all artistic mediums. I’ve seen a coupe of these art exhibitions and even though I am not very knowledgeable about art in general I always enjoy their offerings.
I’m always happy when I see an email from the Korean Cultural Center highlighting their new cultural events. I plan on visiting many more times while I am here in Washington.
- Jin J
The thing about events at the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting is that they’re rarely light-hearted. In fact, the Center’s focus on under-reported issues means that events almost always deal with heavy topics.
Such was the case at Talks @ Pulitzer featuring Steve Sapienza, Antigone Barton and Sebastian Kohn in a discussion about the challenges facing sex workers in Cambodia.
I had no idea that at one time Cambodia had one of the highest percentages of HIV infections among sex workers in SE Asia. I mean, there’s no reason I should know that, but I found it surprising nonetheless.
To stop the spread of the disease, a 100% Condom Usage law was enacted and effectively decreased the number of new infections by over fifty percent. Clearly, it was wild success.
However in 2008, the government attempted to tackle a different (yet tangential) issue – sex trafficking. A new law to curb trafficking shuttered brothels, made prostitution illegal, disrupted vital health initiatives for sex workers and cut off condom distribution programs.
In fact, following the new law, police officers could arrest sex workers and use condom possession as evidence against them; their one line of protection was criminalized. Condom usage plummeted and HIV began to rise yet again.
It’s upsetting that by conflating sex trafficking and sex work these unexpected side effects left an already marginalized population even more at risk.
What’s more, many government-run programs only offer sex workers access to health services if they renounce prostitution – a catch 22 for those who rely on the sex industry for their livelihood.
Support is being found instead through volunteer run organization such as SmartGirl, which provides outreach to promote condom usage and offers free HIV screenings. Volunteers are largely former or current sex workers themselves and this peer-to-peer dynamic seems to be a promising approach.
For more on this thought provoking topic check out Sebastian’s short film, The Hidden World of Cambodian Sex Worker: New Risks, New Hope on npr.org.
Know Before You Go:
The Pulitzer Center’s office opens to the public thirty minutes before the presentation begins. Typically, wine and light snacks are served. Talks @ Pulitzer events are live-streamed so even if you cannot attend in person, you can catch the discussion online at
- Kelly P.
My favorite embassy events in Washington, DC actually take place at the German Cultural Center downtown. My first experience watching games at the Goethe Institut came in in June of 2012 during the EUFA Euro Championships, broadcast live from Poland and the Ukraine. As a football fan in general, and fan of the German National team, I wasn’t sure what to expect when a friend sent me the notification that the games would be broadcast live at the Goethe Institut. I had pictured a sparsely populated watch party, and thought of a room full of German businessmen in suits quietly watching the games.
As I walked over to my first game I realized right away that this preconception was going completely off. Walking down 7th St. toward the Verizon Center I saw a line already formed, with probably 50-100 people already waiting to get in (and this was 30 minutes before game time), German national team jerseys and scarves at the ready. I realized how poorly prepared I was for this game as I noticed that besides the German team gear, everyone seemed to be equipped with plenty of beer, German and otherwise. Talking to people in line I learned that many people had a connection to Germany in some way, former Foreign Service workers, people who had studied abroad there, etc., but plenty of others who were purely just football fans.
About 10 minutes before game time the line was let in and we were led upstairs into the event space, which I learned later hosts art exhibitions, lectures, and a variety of other events besides football games. As soon as the game started the crowd started chanting German football songs and the party was in full force. The first German game was against a Portugal team that had barely made the tournament over Sweden but the game was a close 1-0 win for the Germans, on a goal by the very un-German-like named Mario Gomez. The loudest cheers of the day came on the Gomez goal but also every time Angela Merkel was shown on TV. At the end of the game I knew I was hooked.
I ended up going to every German game during the tournament at the Goethe Institut. German wins over the Netherlands and Denmark led to the knockout stages. The quarter-finals saw a great 4-2 German win over Greece to set up a meeting in the semis with Italy, who had just beaten England on penalty kicks. The match didn’t go the way the crowd had hoped sadly, with Mario Balotelli scoring 2 great goals in the 2-1 victory for Italy.
Since the 2012 Euros I’ve been back to the Goethe Institut for countless games and other events, bringing new friends with me every time. I’ve watched everything from the Champions League Final in 2013 that featured 2 German teams, to this years US Women’s World Cup game vs. Germany. I’ve also seen numerous films in their theater during Filmfest DC. I had been in DC for several years before attending my first football game at the Goethe Institut and I couldn't be happier that I found this cultural gem downtown.
Matthew W., Washington, DC
My favorite embassy to visit for events is the Embassy of Chile, on Massachusetts Avenue close to 17th Street NW. They have a wonderful gallery space on the main floor and they always have great exhibitions with the themes and types of art always changing, from paintings to charcoal drawings, traditional to modern.
My first visit to the Embassy of Chile was for an art exhibition back in December of 2012 when I first moved to Washington. The exhibition was titled, “VISIBLE ARCHITECTS: New Chilean Art at a Global Crossroads”, and the show featured works by contemporary Chilean artists living in New York City with most of the artist present in person to answer questions about their works. The artists themselves were wonderfully accommodating, despite a few minor language barriers, and were very generous in explaining how they conceptualized and executed the pieces in the show.
Another great surprise from the evening, and a treat every time I return for exhibitions at the Embassy of Chile, was their offering of Chilean wines during the exhibition, both whites and reds. On my first visit, shortly after my arrival, waiters suddenly appeared with trays of wine glasses. I was not only impressed with the generosity but with the impressive quality of the wines being served. As somebody new to DC this was the sort of event I had always pictured. I was essentially visiting a foreign country only minutes from my apartment and their staff could not have been more friendly and welcoming. I look forward to returning every time I see events posted at the embassy.
Michael S., Washington, DC