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Real Indication of Olympic Greatness – BTUSAF

The “Unfogettable, Dream Games” i.e. the 2004 Olympics are over.  Over the past two weeks there has been much talk about the medal tally.  Debate as to whether the “Gold” or the “Total” tally is more important has raged over dinner tables and in online discussion forums.  Other debates have revolved around the medal tally in relation to a countries population, with media personalities and bloggers discussing this one.

Well… I’ve done some of my own stats on this and have decided that the fairest way to decide which is the greatest sporting nation is to take into account the wealth of the nations via its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  Why would GDP matter to a nations success in the sporting arena? I hear you ask.  It’s quite simple really.  The richer a nation is, the more money it has to fund things like national sports programs etc.  A poor nation can’t afford to fund sporting programs because they’re busy trying to feed their people while paying off their ever-growing debt to the World Bank and developed nations.  A quick look at the Top 10 on the official medal tally shows the relationship.

Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
United States 35 39 29 103
China 32 17 14 63
Russia 27 27 37 91
Australia 17 16 16 49
Japan 16 9 12 37
Germany 14 16 18 48
France 11 9 13 33
Italy 10 11 12 33
Korea, South 9 12 9 30
United Kingdom (Great Britain) 9 9 11 29

Of the Top 10 on the medal tally, eight of the nine riches nations are there and the other two nations, Australia and South Korea are still up there when it comes the to wealthy nations (16th and 11th respectively).

To get around that whole “Gold” verses “Total” debate, I decided to work out the rough estimate of the actual value of the medal. I tried devising an arbitarily weighted system, awarding a score for each medal (similar to peteme) where I awarded 5 points for gold, 2 points for silver 1 point for bronze, but I abandoned it as a concept as it was too subjective. I had based the scores on how many bronze medals I’d be willing to give up for a silver, and how many silvers I’d give up for a gold, and the fact that I haven’t competed at an Olympic games, let alone won a medal, meant that these estimates had not real scientific basis and the concept was best left alone.  So instead I resorted to hard facts and engineering judgement and the estimates were based on the prices and weights of the metals used (scrounged off the web), with an allowance for some research and development cost.  The final estimates (rounded to the nearest dollar) were:

  • Gold = US$90
  • Silver = US$11
  • Bronze = US$5

With these estimates we’re able to calculate a “Medal Value”.

Country Value
United States $3724
China $3137
Russia $2912
Australia $1786
Japan $1599
Germany $1526
France $1154
Italy $1081
Korea South $987
United Kingdom (Great Britain) $964

So, let’s get down to crunching some GDP numbers.

Just as a check of the relationship between the “Medal Value” we just calculated and GDP, I checked the correlations between the two using and discovered that there was a 0.91 correlation.  A strong correlation, especially when you consider that the correlation between “Medal Value” and populations was only 0.30.  One should also note that there was little correlation between “GDP per Capita” and Olympic success.

One would have thought that the money a nation has to spend on each of its citizens would increase its success in the sporting arena, however, the correlation was a mere 0.27.

So, with the final medal tally I got from Athens Olympic Games Blog, I calculates a “Value” for each nations and divided that “Value” by their GDP, giving a “Value/GDP” number.  So what would this mean?  Literally, it’s merely a ratio of the “Medal Value” to it’s GDP, so it’s “US dollars worth of Olympic medals per Million dollars US of GDP”.  However, it could be thought of as a medal value as a percentage of the nations GDP.  To illustrate, if a country had a GDP of US$5, and it won a bronze medal, it’s “Value/GDP” would be “1.0” or a 100% increase in GDP because of the medal that was won.  This is a bit over simplified, but shows what the figures mean in real terms.  That said, the final ratios are so small, that ther relevance is still a little obscure.  So, I normalised the Medal Values to the Medal Value of the team at the top of the traditional version of the medal tally, i.e. the USA.

The final value is a non-dimensionalised value which is an inducator as to how well a nation did at the 2004 Olympic Games in comparison to the USA.  A value I like to refer to as the “Better Than USA Factor” (BTUSAF).

So, here it is, the 2004 Olympic BTUSAF standings:

BTUSAF Rank Official Rank Country BTUSAF
1 11 Cuba 86.13
2 52 The Bahamas 58.08
3 34 Jamaica 55.96
4 32 Georgia 35.32
5 13 Hungary 17.00
6 33 Bulgaria 13.45
7 14 Romania 13.34
8 28 Ethiopia 12.89
9 41 Kenya 12.29
10 12 Ukraine 11.64
11 49 Zimbabwe 11.41
12 50 Azerbaijan 10.79
13 24 New Zealand 10.45
14 45 Lithuania 10.45
15 4 Australia 9.54
16 54 Cameroon 9.41
17 30 Slovakia 8.83
18 26 Belarus 8.74
19 15 Greece 8.64
20 16 Norway 8.56
21 35 Uzbekistan 8.54
22 44 Croatia 7.94
23 58 Korea, North (DPR of Korea) 6.18
24 59 Latvia 5.88
25 3 Russia 5.80
26 55 Dominican Republic 4.70
27 57 United Arab Emirates 4.68
28 19 Sweden 4.63
29 36 Morocco 4.40
30 72 Eritrea 4.25
31 65 Estonia 3.80
32 37 Denmark 3.79
33 40 Kazakhstan 3.48
34 39 Chile 3.33
35 17 Netherlands 3.23
36 9 Korea, South 2.94
37 27 Austria 2.82
38 73 Mongolia 2.77
39 63 Serbia and Montenegro (Yugoslavia) 2.67
40 42 Czech Republic 2.55
41 23 Poland 2.38
42 53 Israel 2.27
43 56 Ireland 2.22
44 8 Italy 2.08
45 7 France 2.08
46 6 Germany 1.98
47 64 Slovenia 1.97
48 25 Thailand 1.89
49 22 Turkey 1.85
50 10 United Kingdom (Great Britain) 1.77
51 2 China 1.47
52 31 Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) 1.43
53 47 Switzerland 1.39
54 38 Argentina 1.39
55 20 Spain 1.37
56 29 Iran 1.30
57 75 Trinidad and Tobago 1.27
58 5 Japan 1.23
59 68 Paraguay 1.23
60 46 Egypt 1.12
61 21 Canada 1.05
62 1 United States 1.00
63 51 Belgium 0.94
64 43 South Africa 0.87
65 18 Brazil 0.83
66 62 Finland 0.46
67 48 Indonesia 0.44
68 61 Portugal 0.39
69 69 Nigeria 0.25
70 74 Syria 0.22
71 70 Venezuela 0.21
72 66 Hong Kong 0.16
73 60 Mexico 0.12
74 71 Colombia 0.06
75 67 India 0.01

A strong showing by a few of the Caribbean nations and several former Soviet countries are up there too.  India on the other hand… they just suck at sport I guess.  Too bad crickets not an Olympic sport.

So, Cuba can boast that is they were as rich as the USA, they’d get a HEAP more medals… and so can many other nations.

Please Note:  lots of assumptions and simplifications have been made during this exercise.  This exersie was done purely to satisfy my curiousity as to which nation MIGHT be the best if wealth didn’t buy Olympic success.

{originally posted on http://kekoc.com/mt/archives/001109.html#001109}