Saturday, August 23, 2008

So, who's winning this thing?

Interesting Article on Yahoo Sports about the Olympic Medal count. The article talks about how there is a divergence in how different countries count “success” in the Olympics. Is it the number of Golf medals won? Or Is it total medals?

The article goes in a different direction from there, but what I want to look at it the concept of “Olympic Success”. It seems that the rest of the world values Gold above all. And perhaps it is just Americans who look at the total medal count. And is it because we are looking for a way to claim “victory” by any means?

Since the boycott of 1980, the US has dominated the Gold medal count. And it looks that this year, that dominance is over. China, with 48 Golds thus far, seems ready to claim the title of Olympic Champions. The US, with 103 total medals thus far, would rank 2nd with 31 Golds.

So, this is what I have been asking…how do you determine which country has done the best?

Is 1 Gold more valuable than 2 Silver medals? Is it a bigger success than 3 Bronze?
As an example, let’s take a look at two countries. Now, between today and the end of the Games, things may change. But let’s look at one case that jumped out at me.
Panama has won exactly 1 medal thus far. It was the Gold in the Men’s Long Jump. On the Beijing 2008 web site, this places them in 50th place overall.

Armenia has won 6 bronze medals. According to Beijing 2008, this places them at 74th. If we look at the American view point, we would say that Armenia has had a more successful Olympics. They have not dominate a single event, but they have been competitive enough across enough disciplines to medal in multiple events. But if we look at it from the viewpoint of the International Media (based upon how they are displaying the rankings, we can see that Panama has been more successful than Armenia.

Cuba has won 19 medals with 2 of them being Gold. Yet, they rank 2 spots behind the 5 total medals of Ethiopia because Ethiopia has 3 golds.

This just doesn’t jive with me. You would have a hard time convincing me thata country which wins just 1 Gold medal has been more successful than another country which may have one 12 Silver medals and 10 bronze medals. This isn’t an actual case, it’s just an example.

It has been discussed that instead of just relying on the number of Gold medals, or total medals, we could use a system where we assign point values to the medals. 3 points for Gold, 2 for Silver, and 1 for Bronze. And I like this idea. It puts emphasis on both quality and quantity.

So, let’s look at the standings if we were to to this:

China would be #1 with 205 points. The USA would be 2nd with 201. The rest of the rankings would remain the same as the American system until we got to 10th place and Ukraine…In the American system, Cuba would come next because they have 19 medals. In my system, the next country would be the Netherlands because after Ukraine’s 39 points, the Dutch team has the next highest total at 35.

And in the 1st example I gave you…Panama would have 3 points and Armenia 6.

It’s just a thought…


Just for fun I crunched the numbers, and this is how Michael Phelps did during these Olympics:

"International Ranking" = 9th, just ahead of Italy and Holland, and nearly every other nation on earth.

"America Ranking = Tie for 23rd with Romania, Kenya, Norway and Turkey

"My Ranking by points" = 17th place, which is ahead of Brazil

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