Wry & Dry

Olympic games: the last word

W&D has never been in favour of handicap events.  The famous (in Melbourne, at least) Melbourne Cup, a horse race over two miles - oops, sorry, 3,200 metres - is a handicap event.  Weird, slug the best in the field with extra lead, just to give the others a chance.

Of course, an oft cited problem of the Olympic Games is that the medals are won by the wealthiest countries and with large populations.  Should these countries be handicapped?

Err, no.  Obviously.  

But there is merit in looking at a What if? scenario.

That is, don't adjust the individual results.  If Anna Bolic, the 22 year old gymnast from France, wins the competition, fairly, that's fine.  

But W&D might readily adjust the country medal tally to reflect the two critical success factors of GDP and population.  And has so done.

In the raw medal count, as you might expect, it's countries with a large population and a large GDP that do well:

Raw Medal Tally: Big bucks & big population ensure success

Olympic medals raw(Source: Bloomberg.com)


But if one adjusts the medal tally for population, i.e. ranking by medals per capita, the table is completely different.

Medals per capita shows a different story

Olympic medals per capitaAside from small countries that may have a great athlete who does well because he or she lives and trains in, say, the US, W&D dips his lid to New Zealand, Jamaica, Denmark and Croatia.

Australia comes in 14th on this measure, the US 41st and China 78th.

Adjusting the medal tally for GDP is another story, almost.

Medals per $ of GDP (PPP)

Olympic medals per gdp

(Source: Bloomberg)

Jamaica again does well.  New Zealand also does well.  But look at North Korea's success: clearly its athletes get fed, whereas the rest of the people...oh, never mind.

Australia comes in at 42nd place, US 61st and China 73rd.

The takeaway? There are many countries who are a lot more efficient at winning medals than Australia.