Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The real Olympics medal count

Well the Olympics have come and gone for another four years and, surprise surprise, the United States finished first again, and China second.  And of course Australia once again showed their sporting superiority over New Zealand (which, after all, is all that really matters, especially when Great Britain has kicked your butt).

I've included the official top 10 ranked countries below:

# Republic of Korea is South Korea

But are these countries really the best Olympic nations? Does the medal tally truly reflect the sporting worth of a Country?

I think it's time to put some parity back into the medal count, and I did more research than I usually care to do for my blog on the matter. But before I tell you which nations are truly the best...

Some interesting "facts" I discovered

  • 204 Countries competed at London 2012. This is particularly concerning since my Google searches keep telling me there are only 196 countries in the world?
  • Of these (allegedly) 204 countries, 85 got at least one medal. Eighteen (18) countries only got 1 medal.
  • The smallest country in the world is Vatican City with a population of 920 - though for some reason they chose not to send a competitor. Maybe it's because Vatican City's land area is only 1 square km - barely enough room for a table tennis table, much less throw a discus or construct a BMX track - plus wearing robes and riding BMX is a recipe for disaster.
  • Tuvalu is the next smallest population at about 11,000. For those who've never heard of it (like, 99.99% of us), Tuvalu is a collection of 9 tiny coral atolls located halfway between Australia and Hawaii. ie. in the middle of no-where. Tuvalu had three competitors in London.
  • There is a country called Burkina Faso. It has about 15 million people in it and I've never heard of it before. I thought maybe it must have changed its name, and it had, in 1984. Prior to that it was called the Republic of Upper Volta. Oh, now I know it ... Burkina Faso had 5 competitors.
  • Great Britain is inappropriately named. That seems a bit ostentatious for the country with the stiff upper lip.
  • Madagascar has a population of almost 22 million, and yet we did not see one human on that island in the movie.
  • Chad was going to be named Brian, but it was agreed that the name sounded uncool.

So who is the real winner?

The table rank above is based on "Gold" medals. First of all, I don't think it's fair that Gold should be the sole determinant of rank on the medal table. For instance, who has really done better: Hungary with its 8 Gold etc, or Australia with its 7 Gold and gazillion Silver and Bronze?

Similarly, I think population should come into it. China and the US obviously have huge advantages here as they have vastly greater populations than, say, a nation like Australia (or Tuvalu).

While we're at it we should probably look at a Nations wealth as you'd think that would provide significant advantages. So, for instance, Australia is a wealthier nation than Hungary and therefore you would assume there would be performance advantages in that fact

So, putting all the above figures into a highly sophisticated algorithm (okay, excel spreadsheet formula), I have come up with the "real" London 2012 Olympics medal table. I would appreciate it if everyone would refer to these as the official top 10 from now on.

And the winner is ...


* That's North Korea up there in 4th.

"What?" I hear you say, "I don't even know where Grenada is! And they only got one medal."  That's true, and I must admit I didn't like seeing the result. But the highly sophisticated algorithm does not lie, and Grenada actually came out a clear number one based on its Gold Medal, tiny population of 104,000 and its low wealth.

There is a feel good aspect to this also. The Gold medal achieved by Kirani James was Grenada's first ever medal, and it came from a killer hard event - the 400m.

Still, I prefer seeing the number two ranking - Jamaica. With 12 medals, mostly in track, a population under 3 million and low wealth they deservedly sit amongst the top two places.

Position 4 (North Korea) and 9 (Kenya) were notable in that they have large populations compared to the others in the top 10 but very low wealth.

It hurt to see New Zealand at 8, but no matter how I skewed the data I just couldn't get Australia anywhere near the mark.

In terms of ranking by Gold versus ranking by Jeff's super algorithm, Hungary came in closest with a Gold ranking of 9 and a Jeff ranking of 12.

As for the original top ten by Gold Medal, this is how they ended up:

Of course there are a heap of other factors to consider to make this a more accurate reflection of Olympic greatness but, after all, this is just a blog.

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