August 22, 2004
I've Got The United States Ranked 30th In Olympics Medal Count
Typically, we see medal counts ranking countries by raw medal numbers. Something like this, where the total score is derived by having the Gold worth 3, Silver worth 2, and Bronze worth 1. (This isn't a complete count -- I got sick of cleaning tabular data.)
|39||United Arab Emirates||1||0||0||3|
But, this approach doesn't take into account what I consider an obvious advantage of the leading countries -- population size. Of course the United States has a lot of medals -- it has a lot of people from which to draw a select group of athletes. If you factor a country's population size into their total, you get a very different ranking. "Score" is the "Total" divided by the population, multiplied by 10,000,000 (to get a nice, readable number).
|10||U Arab Emira||1||0||0||3||2,484,818||12.07|
Congratulations, Australia, Slovakia, and the Netherlands, for being the leading countries (so far)!
Posted by peterme at August 22, 2004 07:44 AM
Congratulations, Australia, Slovakia, and the Netherlands, for being the leading countries (so far)!
Thank you! That does make me proud. :-)
Justice at last.
Posted by: Marius van Dam at August 22, 2004 08:55 AM
Population should definitely be taken into consideration but I question whether the it should count as much as you suggest. The US has a lot higher population than many countries, but not every citizen of the US is out there competing at once. A basketball team can have great depth, but they can still only put 5 guys on the floor at a time. I'd like to see numbers comparing the medal count to actual number of representatives from each country, and then maybe you could average those with your numbers.
Posted by: Tim at August 22, 2004 01:36 PM
But a higher number of people gives an increasing chance of having athletes that can compete in the olympics. And aan higher change of bringing forth gold medal winners.
With that said, I loves me country and all of a sudden my favorite metal is Bronze.
Posted by: [m] at August 22, 2004 02:40 PM
i feel sorry for India :((
Posted by: jj at August 22, 2004 03:41 PM
You could take this even further if you wanted - for instance, rich countries spend far more on their athletes while poor countries obviously prioritise other things. Stands to reason a country like Australia, which has poured resources into elite sport in recent years, does well.
Thanks for showing us an alternative version of truths taken for granted.
Posted by: Jill at August 23, 2004 01:03 AM
the weirdest thing is that even given different human 'body types,' the people from some of the winningest nations look like many of the US athletes-- ie very nutritionally well-off. Those were some healthy female platform divers from Australia too
Other ppl from some countries just don't look as substantial or something, sometimes...
Posted by: Robi at August 23, 2004 08:00 AM
And then again, any manipulation of raw data is an exercise of statistical sophistry.
Shall we now declare Saddam Hussein the victor over George Bush in our latest military contest because Iraq is a smaller nation than the U.S.?
Posted by: BJMe at August 23, 2004 08:59 AM
Peter, this post would suck a little less if there were a hint that it's even partly tongue-in-cheek. Since there isn't, isn't it a bit of an oversimplification - something you often accuse others with - to consider just one factor when you're attempting to even out biases in favour of winning nations. Is it even possible to arrive at an unbiased tally?
If you're "factoring out" what would seem to be obvious advantages for winning nations, won't you want to "factor in" obvious disadvantages for other nations - poverty, illiteracy, lack of facilities, lack of qualified coaches and so on. What about other in-between and potentially difficult to measure sociological factors like parental consent for a sporting career, popularity of a sport among the masses and how a society treats its successful sportsmen of past years. Even if you arrive at a list of factors, what value would you assign to each?
If size were such an advantage for success, India, Indonesia and Brazil would rank among top five medal winners; the fortune 500 list would be a list of the largest organisations and Adaptive Path would be one the most innovative UX firm!
Alas, it's not so simple. India , Indonesia  and Brazil  are not even in the top 25; large, monolith corporations have been known to disappear without a trace; and there are potentially many smart UX designers around the world who work in a team of one.
Posted by: Manu Sharma at August 23, 2004 10:27 AM
And that's not even mentioning it should be adjusted for % of population that is even by any stretch of the imagination available to compete--
China has a large absolute population, true; but it also has an unbelievably staggering % of its population under age 20... Other countries have skews toward the senior part of the population...
Posted by: Robi at August 23, 2004 12:53 PM
The Australian Bureau of Statistics publishes this every day:
I don't know what will happen to this link after the Olympics is over...
Posted by: Donna Maurer at August 23, 2004 10:05 PM
Of course that doesn't make it either valid or fair. Only suitable.
Posted by: Manu Sharma at August 24, 2004 02:19 AM
There's no perfect statistic :)
a final comment is that countries that have strong social disapproval, or even past prohibition, of women participating in the Olympics or in certain sports offer a skew too
there're lots of things
Posted by: Robi at August 24, 2004 06:25 AM
Well, if you managed to get all the factors in there and do all the calculating just right, wouldn't every country end up with the same score as each other? That's what the competition is all about- overcoming your particular disadvantages to come out on top. It's like the Vonnegut story Harrison Bergeron. Peterme is en route to becoming the Handicapper General!
Posted by: Tim at August 24, 2004 11:55 AM
The first chart answers a simple question (which country won the most medals?), but implies a not-so-nice question (which country has superior people?). I donít think you can solve the not-so-nice question by trying to answer it more accurately. But, itís a fun exercise and worth it for the thoughts it provokes.
Posted by: David E. at August 24, 2004 12:46 PM
I thought I had already written my last word on this but Tim's comment has been thought provoking.
He said: "...if you managed to get all the factors in there and do all the calculating just right, wouldn't every country end up with the same score as each other?"
Tim, you think too far! I think that's a brilliant insight. I completely agree. It's vain to attempt to arrive at an equitable list. For one, as I said, it's not possible but more importantly - as you showed - we already know the result.
"Harrison Bergeron" is a poignant story that aptly demonstrates this. It's fascinating to see this question taken from the realms of statistics and be thrown unexpectedly into the shores of philosophy.
Competition is vital. China faced some of the same odds about two decades ago that India faces today [lack of resources, small per capita GDP] and it has overcome them brilliantly. Just as Australia has successfully overcome a different set of odds [small population].
Peter's second list puts China at #40 and therefore is just as inequitable. Both countries need to be lauded for their achievement. The original list does it quite sufficiently.
Posted by: Manu Sharma at August 24, 2004 03:12 PM
Classic. I did the exact same thing just yesterday with the top 20 countries, using gold and total medal counts.... only I made a graph as well.
Posted by: bruceyeah at August 24, 2004 07:43 PM
OK but New Zealand now has 2 golds, as of a couple of days ago. So our total would be 15.18, propelling us to 6th place (still well behind those darn aussies...grumble grumble).
Posted by: Richard MacManus at August 24, 2004 09:23 PM
I did the same thing a few days ago for the benefit of my Korean students. At that point, I got Korea coming out as 3rd, which made me hero for the day....
Posted by: stavrosthewonderchicken at August 24, 2004 11:25 PM
the important thing to remember is: swimming doesn't count
Posted by: Anonymous at August 25, 2004 12:41 AM
what about Slovenia?
Until now we have three bronze and one silver medal,
with population less than two million!!!???
Posted by: brane at August 25, 2004 08:21 AM
Merlene Ottley (formerly of Jamaica) is now running for Slovenia..
Athletes are a fluid population.
Everyone at the Olympics does great-- I am as awed and glad to see someone from Romania, or South Africa, or Slovenia, or ANYWHERE do great there-- it's unbelievable to watch. Once athletes started becoming more mobile-- especially to countries who would let them compete (Merlene Ottey did not make Jamaica's team for a 7th Olympics; I believe they felt she did not have a chance at a medal)--- it underscored how everyone is kind of the same, fundementally....
The Olympics is also about adrenaline and close margins as much as anything. No one country or population should take credit, or not, for any individual's 'performance'-- it is kind of a venue of extremes....albeit often beautiful ones.
Posted by: Robi at August 25, 2004 11:26 AM
OK, have back at the fray
Posted by: Robi at August 25, 2004 11:28 AM
Okay, now run that again, factoring in Texas by itself. =P
Posted by: Anonymous at August 25, 2004 04:14 PM
Maybe PriceWaterHouseCoopers can work out all the factors to come up with an appropriate medal table. They seem to be doing alright with their prediction model for Athens:
Posted by: m.gregg at August 26, 2004 08:39 AM
i'll have a look...
I still think the Indonesia population # is off just by practical considerations because Muslim women there, I mean no way are they really a population to whom sports are made available
Look at Saudi Arabia-- it has a ban on physical education for women...I'll look for that in PWC's table
Posted by: Robi at August 26, 2004 10:23 AM
Isn't it about time to put all this negative jingoism to rest. There is no question but that the U.S. of A. has the best troop of athletes in the world. So what?
This is a nation of couch potatoes. The minority of our population that is seriously engaged in participatory sport is minimal. And that is a shame. But most of our young athletes are in college playing football, baseball and basketball. They are not trap shooting, wrestling, etc. Nevertheless, those that do compete in international games achieve success in an inordinate degree. The Tour de France is a stunning example.
Nor does the American Government support international sports programs and and athlete development as do most other nations. Private corporation and citizen contributions are the only support of our Olympic and World competiton athletes and programs.
So, either factor all of these elements into your rankings, or recognize that they are specious and meaningless.
Posted by: BJMe at August 26, 2004 10:39 PM
There is a tremendous collegiate and financial (pro marketing) system in the US unparallelled anywhere... though it affects different sports, and athletes, differently.
But in a way-- for me-- the question 'why?' for many things proves fruitless...
Njoy the Olympic show anyway!
Posted by: Robi at August 27, 2004 05:59 AM
Great job! But where are the latest results?
Greetings from the Netherlands!
Posted by: Dolbee at August 27, 2004 08:31 AM
If Michael Phelps, himself, was an independent country, how much points would he have?
Posted by: Anonymous at August 27, 2004 10:00 AM
Very interesting insight and I like that link that Donna Maurer as supplied giving the latest update.
To me all is this is showing is a 'per capita' view, which is simply population vs medals. Taking other factors into account would be very difficult such as # women involved in sport etc and you would never get a concensus. Population is a measurable factor but it would be also interesting to see a participant #'s vs medals.
I come from NZ & I know we will never get anywhere near the total USA will, but even though NZ is currently ranked 3rd I think we have been good but not outstanding as sports which we should have done well were very poor, so we should have more. Therefore a per capita 3rd doesnt seem right.
Posted by: GP at August 28, 2004 01:43 PM
Sport/athletics is an individual affair woven through all this; however the constant could be seen as massive incentives and support (financial, based on cultural ability to provide as well as inclination to) and also disincentives (outright ban on women in some sports, from some countries; etc etc- )--that color this too
It is like each country's privileging of sport, and in what way, and what each country can provide (facilities; climate) woven behind and through each athlete's quest
I watch it for individuals, not countries, and marvel at probable victories as much as improbable
The incredible thing is technology of both sport and timers that allows us to see the microseconds that seemingly 'divide' people..... But all the performances there are great-- Bar none.
Posted by: Robi at August 28, 2004 03:13 PM
maybe factoring out the abilities of different athletes would contribute to a more egalitarian view. African are simply better runners than the rest...which simply ain't fair. Why should the fact that the Aussies are so good at swimming entitle them to all the medals.....
those are the questions I'd like to see answered...
Posted by: malc at August 29, 2004 05:55 AM
It's rather petty that you even went to the trouble of calculating this. The U.S. has great athletes. Just get over it!! and yes it has a large population, so you would expect it to be at the top of the medal table. And besides, Australia is always phenomenal at the Olympics, so I'm not sure why you have to be so snide. I could understand if you were British.
But since it irks you so much to see the U.S. in the top spot that you should go to such trouble to calculate a way to put them in a low position, why don't you consider another important variable. Team Sports. The US soccer team won a gold medal....that counts as ONE gold medal for about 18 athletes. Same with US womens Basketball and Softball...Just one gold medal for at least a dozen players on each team. Do you see where I'm going?? The US has many large teams participating in different sports at the Olympics, far more than most other countries. I have a feeling if you factored that into your calculations, you'd be dissapointed to see a chart that showed the US in a favorable light again. Sorry. I know that would break your heart.
Posted by: Julie at August 29, 2004 08:09 PM
I see where you are going Julie...Australia won the mens hockey team gold medal, Australian women won silver at softball, and basketball. Australian men won the baseball silver medal, Australian cyclers and rowers won gold team medals too, etc., etc. I don't think that the US has anymore teams represented at Athens than Australia at all, and Australia's teams have won quite a few medals at Athens!
Of course the finances and cultures of countries could be taken into account to get a true guide, but that would still have Australia well ahead of the USA, and it would also be too hard to do, although that would have Cuba very strong. I think that for fun the medals/points per capita is a reasonable guide.
Australia has shown for a long time that they are the best sport nation in the world. The only nation to have beaten all others more in test cricket, a record 3 world cups too, 29 Davis Cups in tennis, and many grand slam titles for such a small population.
A record 2 world cups in rugby union, and a record 8 world cups in rugby league, and Australian football is also the most skillful and physically demanding code of football in the world. How good would Australia be at the Olympic Games if they could use professional cricketers, rugby players, and Australian footballers?
At least the USA can bring their overpaid basketballers, while the American footballers are too overweight and unfit to be any good at the Olympic Games. I don't think that this is a way to drop the USA down the list, but it is important that people remember that the more people in the country, then the better chance that a top athlete can be produced.
Of course size alone will not produce success, and the countries themselves must be firstly interested enough in being successful, whether they have the finances or not. I don't think that India and Indonesia for example care as much about being successful as Australia and the USA do for various reasons.
One thing is certain however...Australia is a better sport nation than the USA, Italy, France, China, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Canada, Japan and a few others that have both a higher population and money to spend. My final medal per capita table has the Bahamas first with 2 medals for 317,000 people, but Australia is next, and first of all nations with a population of 1 million people or more!
Posted by: Stephanie at August 30, 2004 06:16 AM
A better judge may in fact be the total time/number of points ahead one country was from another and not the medal tally.
Why focus on medals when a more accuate gauge of how much better on country is than another exists in cumulative milliseconds?
Or better milliseconds per capita.
Posted by: malc at August 30, 2004 06:59 AM
What about normalising the medal count according to the number of athletes (excluding support staff) that each country sent to Athens, i.e. the number that qualified. Australia sent a disproportionately large team (second largest?). What would this measure?
Posted by: I am not Ian Thorpe at August 30, 2004 09:03 AM
What about taking the SQUARE of the population size.
Posted by: Johan Sterk at August 30, 2004 09:12 AM
Let's not forget all the athletes who attend college,work, train and eventually draw a professional salary here in the US, then return once every four years to their "home" country.
Posted by: rickokc at August 30, 2004 12:01 PM
Another way to look at the relative medal count is a consideration of the number of athletes each nation sent to Athens for this Olympics.
AUS sent 5% of the total athletes in the Olympic Village and earned 5% of the medals.
GB entered 2.5 of the athletes and won 3% of the medals.
FR entered 3% of the athletes and won 3.5% of the medals.
GER entered 4% of the athletes and won 5% of the medals.
CHI entered 4% of the athletes and won 7% of the medals.
And the US entered 6% of the athletes and won 11% of the total medal count.
RUS is not included in this list as I couldn't find their number of athletes on the rosters.
By this measurement, Australia is decidely not "the best sport nation in the world" as the AUS team performed at only an average level in these Olympics, with all the others performing above them.
The Olympics were never designed to demonstrate the athletic abilities of national populations, but only of their champions. And some nations have more champions in more sports than other nations.
And some nations rise and fall in their number of champions, but not the USA. Since the 1896 Olympics, the U.S. has come in First 16 times, Second 7 times and Third 1 time. A United States team has never come in below Third in this modern era.
Posted by: BJMe at August 30, 2004 12:22 PM
I came to this site from a search looking for "per capita" madals - but reading through the post have been inspired to look at the subject more broadly.
Australia has done exeedingly well - by any standards....
I suspect that all the above factors of freedom of women, finances etc are entirely valid. I also think that the "newness" of the nation, along with the geography, plays a part - with the huge majority of the population within spitting distance of major cities. Training facilities, local competition and local funding are all to hand - plus a propensity to live close to the sea...!
As was said earlier - too many variables - but an interesting debate, nonetheless.
Posted by: Barry at August 30, 2004 01:11 PM
excellent post! So good I have to repost the main thrust for our surly friend....
"AUS sent 5% of the total athletes in the Olympic Village and earned 5% of the medals.
And the US entered 6% of the athletes and won 11% of the total medal count. "
Sorry, 5% from 5% is not too impressive. And, by the way, I believe I read that Australia sent over 500 athletes!?? Is that true??? Then you should have gotten as many medals as China, who (I believe) also sent about 500. So what went wrong with the Australian team then?
Posted by: Julie at August 30, 2004 07:08 PM
Apparently, real GDP is the best predictive indicator, from a macro-economic perspective;
c.f. this story on CNN: Economists pick Olympic winners.
Posted by: O at August 30, 2004 09:14 PM
Please complete your table! I have wanted someone to do this because (as I had hoped and even presumed) my home country of Australia would be on top! (I currently live in the USA). BUT ... New Zealand ended up with 3 golds and, I think 2 silvers! My Kiwi wife wnd I would love to see how that would alter things!
Posted by: Grant at August 31, 2004 02:22 PM
I would suspect there's an "S" curve involved , too. To start off, population has little effect, then it climbs rapidly, and finally flattens out as saturation is reached.
Another factor is the degree of specialisation that occurs in any field; athletics, science, etc. Large countries can afford to have people specialise. As the country gets smaller, they tend to have to become "Jacks of all trades", then at very small levels, it's not possible to cover all the bases, so individuals start to specialise again.
Posted by: hartley at August 31, 2004 02:50 PM
Aussies-V-Yanks, no contest. Not only are we a better sporting nation but we have better beaches, better weather, better food, friendlier people, are less aggressive and more humble than those from the U.S of A.
America conducts the "World Series" of baseball in which only US teams compete and then can't even win the mens baseball at the Games!! We all laughed at THAT!
It is a pity that "Gun related death" is not an Olympic Sport. You guys would definitely win Gold and Silver and Bronze too!
Also amusing that your average white American has an avid dislike of African Americans yet those people win 90% of your medals! Talk about hypocrisy.
Yanks have always been jealous of Aussies. Get over it.
Posted by: Dundee_Down_Under at August 31, 2004 07:36 PM
Interesting, but I should think that any computation of this sort would consider only the sports wherein each nations competes. Swimming is an obviously embarrassment to the Olympic movement, insasmuch as a single swimmer can win multiple medals - seven for Mark Spitz - while athletes far better biomechanically - wrestlers, judoists, and decathlon competitors - can win just one.
Mathematics and statistics are my avocation and former profession (I'm retired), and my own compilation puts Cuba in first place by a considerable margin.
Still, I congratulate you for your attempt at precision and objectivity.
Posted by: Hal von Luebbert at September 1, 2004 06:34 AM
Forget the population thing... rich countries do better at the Olympics, therefore it makes more sense to allow for a nations GDP when comparing their Olympic performance.
Posted by: vlado at September 1, 2004 06:54 AM
Julie... you need to get a life. Talk about taking the fun out of something and injecting aggression. Aussies are generally way too laid back and appreciative of their own good fortune to begrudge a winner anything - US or otherwise. Sheesh!
Personally, I think it's exposure to competition that makes the difference. I'm not sure how you'd calculate anything on that basis, but athletes who have the greater exposure to other top-level athletes definitely thrive on that experience. This measure would put those smaller, less well-off nations WAY above the others as well...
Posted by: what_a_wally at September 1, 2004 07:08 AM
"Aussies-V-Yanks, no contest. Not only are we a better sporting nation but we have better beaches, better weather, better food, friendlier people, are less aggressive and more humble than those from the U.S of A."
hehehe....yes, obviously very humble! And I think it's just plain stupid to say things like "Aussie V Yanks". Your just being inflammatory. I'm not biting and for the record I've always admired the success of Australia at the Olympics (well, summer anyway). I'm not the one who devised a chart to show the leading nation in 30th place, which is especially skewed considering the restrictions on the number of athletes nations are allowed - something which has an obvious effect on larger nations like the US and China - rendering "per capita" calculations completely meaningless. But if it makes you feel good....
"America conducts the "World Series" of baseball in which only US teams compete and then can't even win the mens baseball at the Games!! We all laughed at THAT"
glad you had a good laugh, as much the whole world does over that one. of course, everyone is too lazy to look up that the term "World Series" refers to the "World" newspaper that sponsored it in the beginning. whatever.
Also, I believe the US not qualifying had something to do with it being in the middle of baseball season here, so most of our players are kind of tied up. If the amateurs didn't qualify because they weren't good enough, well then they just weren't good enough. Obviously, our basketball team wasn't so hot either. We can live with that. It happens.
Also, your assertion that most Americans are racist is a ridiculous, cheap, ignorant shot and only reveals your own uneducated bigotry. (btw, did you see Rabbit Proof Fence? People in glass houses, you know...) I'm very proud of the African-American athletes who represent our country at the Olympics. They do extraordinarily well. although the 90% figure was clearly pulled right out of your ass.
Posted by: Anonymous at September 1, 2004 08:08 AM
"Talk about taking the fun out of something and injecting aggression. Aussies are generally way too laid back and appreciative of their own good fortune to begrudge a winner anything - US or otherwise. Sheesh"
Please. the whole point of this topic was to begrudge and put down the American olympic team while stroking your own egos. And based on the comments of some of your compatriots on this board, I have to laugh when you talk about how laid back Aussies are. I'm not the one injecting aggression here.
Posted by: Julie at September 1, 2004 11:23 AM
Actually, Australia comes in dead last! In this sample of nations, Australia trails behind everyone, including France, the Netherlands, and Britain. Per capita data means nothing for reasons others have adequately pointed out.
What's far more relevant is your teams "success rate" or, put another way, what percentage of your athletes won medals. The CBS website lists lots of stats including the number of athletes each country sent. btw - Australia sent more athletes than China!! LOL (and Russia...and Germany...and Britain....and France..)
Still, only 10% of Australias athletes came home with a medal, that's pretty poor compared to 20% of Russians and 16% of Americans. Australia even came behind the Brits. So next time you start bragging and slagging off other nations, you might want to think twice. The US more than doubled your medal count - pretty impressive considering they've haven't got all that many more athletes than you - 647 athletes to 489.
Here's the tally. Sorry Mate :(
92 medals - 20%
647 American team
103 medals - 16%
396 Chinese team
63 medals - 16%
469 german team
57 medals - 12%
315 french team
38 medals- 12%
218 dutch team
25 medals - 11%
271 british team
30 medals- 11%
489 Aussie team
49 medals - 10%
Posted by: sami at September 1, 2004 03:43 PM
Oh come on! The number of athletes sent to the Olympics by a country is a red herring! For a "good enough" nation, the number you send is dictated by the number of disciplines in which you compete.
This is simply because competitions have a cap - e.g. only 3 athletes per nation in the marathon ("choose your best 3, because there are only 3 medals"). In addition, Australia qualified for more team events than, say, France (football: 1 medal, 22 athletes).
The point of a pro capita statistic is that, no matter how many athletes you send, you had a large pool of people to choose them from.
More interestingly, has anyone done a "medal per pro-capita GDP" stat?
Posted by: om at September 1, 2004 11:30 PM
Sorry Om. I think it's all well and good for Australia to send in that many athletes - nothing wrong with that. But the point is you can't than turn around and boast about a per capita medal haul when you are so disproportionately represented. The rather antagonistic object of this topic - as stated in the title 'I've got the US in 30th place' is obviously to cast the US in a poor light and make a disparaging comparison of the US athletic team to the Australian athletic team by drawing per capita conclusions.
Obviously, the US has a larger pool to choose from. But it would only be fair to consider per capita figures if the US was allowed to send more (specifically, 15 times more) athletes per event than Australia is allowed. If US vs. Aussie representation was proportional to their relative populations, then the US would have sent in 7500 and would likely have won 1500 medals. If you really want to debate whose athletic team is best (and I think doing so is arrogant, nationalistic, and petty by the way, but you Aussies started it) the only fair analysis is the one offered by sami, which reflects each teams medal percentage and in that context the Russians, NOT Australia and NOT the US, are the hands down winners.
Also, you can't expect to start a discussion clearly designed to belittle and insult another nation and not have others point out the holes in your theory.
Posted by: Anonymous at September 2, 2004 06:18 AM
"you Aussies"? Not everyone who's not American is an Aussie. In particular, I am not. And believe it or not, you don't have to be Australian to admire their performance at sports. In case you're not exposed to this view, it is shared by a lot of people around the world. I think you're unfair to peterme: I don't think that the topic was meant to cast the US in a bad light (how so?) but to show that there are countries that do amazingly well considering the small pool of people to choose from.
Are countries like Australia overrepresented? Here is the flaw in that argument: assuming that nations send their best athletes, then a Mongolian that wins a gold does so by beating the best American (amongst others). Since he's better than the best American, he very probably would have beaten any number of Americans you could have sent to the Olympics.
If the above is true (and I know it's not *always* true, but not that unreasonable an approximation), putting a cap of three athletes per nation in any competition makes sense in terms of medal winning. Sadly, it makes non-medal placements useless for statistical purposes, which is a shame, as they would have been very meaningful in this discussion.
Maybe the results of the analysis should have been rephrased as follows: "at the Olympics the best Australian has beaten the best American far more times than you'd expect from the sizes of their population". I think that's hard to argue against.
By the way, sending large teams to competitions (which was what the USA used to do- I remember a 100m final with 7 US athletes) also causes unfair advantages: to mention the most obvious, the possibility to exploit teamwork in individual competitions (e.g. long-distance running, cycling etc.).
Posted by: om at September 2, 2004 10:32 PM
Out of curiosity, how would a team of 7500 athletes win 1500 medals when there were 929 to be won? If the whole population of the US had taken part, they probably would have still won... well... around 103 medals... if would just have been a much more boring event.
By the way, *every* athlete in the USA takes part in the Olympics, in case you did not notice. It's just that most get eliminated earlier... :-)
Posted by: om at September 2, 2004 10:38 PM
A final comment: one thing that amazes me about the pro capita statistic (and I think detractors of this measure should consider this carefully) is that the large EU countries have had astoundingly homogeneous results: in the final tally, Germany, Italy, France, Britain and Spain are all 1.7 to 2.1 million people/medal, all around 30th place (US is at #41).
Also coherent results come from Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazhakhstan and the Ukraine all 1.5 to 1.9, with the Baltic states and Belarus performing significantly better (between .45 ad .7). Interestingly, Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovenia are in the same range.
Posted by: om at September 2, 2004 10:58 PM
People may ridicule or laugh at India but then one should realise India is not a country, it is a world...with a population of over a Billion people living under a democratic system with 900 languages and dialects, a variety of places and climates, a country ravaged by centuries of occupation, a country which is a victim of International politics. The Hindu majority country having a Muslim as a President and a Minority Sikh as a Prime Minister should evoke strong feeling of world-wide respect and recognition. What they are doing is next to impossible, but they are doing it. Watch out, it is the country which will be the future Super Power and it will produce the best.
Posted by: V.S.S.SARMA at September 3, 2004 01:47 AM
Om - "More interestingly, has anyone done a "medal per pro-capita GDP" stat?"
want to take advantage of Australias - any many other countries- relative laziness and lack of production? ;-)
GDP is a pretty silly thing to compare, especially among western nations...it will make no difference. (poor African nations, naturally, have terrible obstacles to overcome...of course, many athletes from poorer countries are able to train in the United States. And many poor nations, like the Dominican Republic, are represented by American athletes like their gold medal winner in athens (can't remember his name) he was American, but raced for D. R. because his grandfather was Dominican). So, he had the best training in the US, went on to get a gold medal for a dirt poor nation. Now how would that GDP thing work again? I acknowledge that athletes from poor nations that have access to little funds are all the more impressive for it. But don't even try to suggest that US athletes have an unfair advantage over countries like Australia because our GDP is so much higher.
How would you factor in Australias climate and the fact that most Australians live within close proximity to the water? Definite unfair advantage over countries like the US, Britain, Germany, and Canada.
Posted by: Anonymous at September 3, 2004 06:18 AM
GDP? get real! It's actually olympic funding that counts. Several Australians here and on other sites love to make the "GDP per capita tally" argument - no doubt to exaggerate their success even further than their pathetic " we've got more medals per capita" claim. GDP means nothing considering Australias "olympic training budget". Australia spends far, far, FAR more per athlete than almost all other nations, many of which have a much higher GDP than Australia. Similarly, the Soviet Union and East Germany had very low GDPs, but were Olympic superstars because of the money that poured into their athletic training.
Nice try. Look, the US produces great athletes (for summer AND winter olympics, unlike Australia). Just get over it and move on.
Posted by: canuck at September 3, 2004 07:37 AM
"Please. the whole point of this topic was to begrudge and put down the American olympic team while stroking your own egos. And based on the comments of some of your compatriots on this board, I have to laugh when you talk about how laid back Aussies are. I'm not the one injecting aggression here."
Awww diddums. Does someone need a hug? come on julie.. have your red,white and blue knickers been twisted? The point of the topic doesn't seem to me to be to put down Americans at all. It's just to generate discussion - which it has. If there were another nation at the top then THEY would be the comparison point...
and i guess you need to be exposed to the aussie culture to understand that 'taking the piss' is a national past-time.... all I see here is some classic winding up (and 'zinggg' some took the bait).
If participation is one of the aims of the Olympics then maybe we should look at numbers of athletes qualifying at Olympic standard in relation to number of potential athletes available in a nation (ie population between 12 and... whatever the eldest person is demented enough to want that gain for the amount of pain.. for example ONLY) Number of athletes sent is perhaps not a negative measure yeah?
And amount of money invested in each athlete is quite difficult to judge considering that the cultures of nations differ considerably with regard to the giving of funds (is giving to an athlete considered philanthropy in your local church/pub/community?)
lesson in here? nothing is as it seems. When it comes down to it, is the Olympics celebrating national achievement or individual achievement anyway?
Citius, altius, fortius.
"Baron de Coubertin borrowed the motto from Father Henri Martin Dideon, the headmaster of Arcueil College in Paris. Father Dideon used the motto to describe the great achievements of the athletes at his school. Coubertin felt it could be used to describe the goals of great athletes all over the World."
Canuck, what's a 'winter' mate? :-P
Posted by: what_a_wally at September 7, 2004 10:55 AM
Oh.. just to be entirely childish now... when i look back through the comments.. Julie.. if you don't like the tone, you shouldn't have led the way (ie you started it matey potatey).
also... I'm not entirely certain, but Peter Merholtz doesn't appear to be Australian (although, since he's pretty clever, we may want to adopt him as a brain-athlete huh? ;-) ) so he doesn't appear to have any particular motive for showing Australia (in particular)in a positive light.
Just a thought. or two.
lastly.. aussie aussie aussie oi oi oi ;-)
Posted by: what_a_wally at September 7, 2004 11:13 AM
Anybody any idea why Britain sends a "Great Britain" team to the Olympics, but in Rugby or Football it's typically four individual teams; England, Scotland, Wales and [Northern] Ireland?
In cricket there's really only one world class British team, and that's "England", although many a Scot or Welshman has played for England.
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