Athletes are no longer divided into Eastern and Western Europe -- they are all members of the EU. Though they now compete under national flags, if they were taken as a bloc, the EU athletes would top the medal list.
Put all those medals togethers and you'd get one super medal count
The United States competes as a bloc -- athletes from 50 different states join together under one flag. What would happen if the same applied to Olympians from the European Union, if athletes from the 25 member states all competed under the starry banner of the EU?
In terms of medal counts, EU member states would stand to profit greatly in the ranking if they were taken as a whole. No longer would they be regulated to mid-field in the tallying of gold medals. Germany, France, Great Britain and Italy would not have to be content playing third-string to the US, China and Australia. Poland, Hungary and the Netherlands would suddenly find themselves counted among the top 10 athletic nations instead of the top 20. And small countries like Luxembourg and Malta would be able to boast about gold medal athletes.
21-year-old Swede Carolina Klüft captured gold
If the EU were taken as a bloc and not divided up into 25 different countries, it would clearly dominate the gold medals list. Already four of the top 10 countries are European: Germany, France, Italy and Great Britain. Several others are in the top 20: Netherlands, Greece, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. And a dozen more wait in the wings with silver and bronze.
At the end of the ninth day of competition, the EU would have more than 45 gold medals compared to the 21 from China and the 20 from the United States. Is there any more compelling reason to count the 25 nations as one bloc?
Unification and integration
Fani Halkia's Greek gold would count for the EU
Beyond the sheer attraction of beating out the US for top slot, there are some other reasons why the EU should consider uniting its athletes under the bloc's starry banner. First, it would no longer play a role if the athletes came from Western Europe or from the sports powerhouses in the East, where today even the youngest generation still profits from the rigorous training programs of the former Soviet sphere. They would all be called Europeans, a supranational label that would help solidify the continent's unification and integration, if only in the sporting arena.
Second, fans would be inspired to cheer for more than just their own national sports heroes. Media coverage of the Games would be less nationalistic, including more than just local favorites, and might even draw attention to interesting, Olympic participants, who otherwise slip through the cracks in regional broadcasts.
Germany's Birgit Fischer won plenty of gold in Athens
Gold medallists like Sweden's Carolina Klüft in the heptathlon, Britain's Bradley Wiggins in cycling and the rowers Tomasz Kucharski and Robert Sycz from Poland might not become household names from Brussels to Barcelona, but they would at least have a familiar ring to them.
Ultimately, the Games could encourage a sense of pan-European patriotism more in tune with the spirit of the Olympics -- being there is everything.