Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Medal Hunt - Summer Olympics 2004

At every Olympics the medal count is unfortunately always followed by all the news media and many spectators. There is always talk of how countries fair in the count and some rumbling about how some countries dominate the medals. So two years ago, it got me to thinking. Really how well does the US and Canada fair versus other countries in relation to the population or number of athletes to medals won. I sat down with the 2004 Summer Olympics website and a spreadsheet and took note of the population of each country, the number of athletes sent, the number of gold medals, and the number of overall medals. Using these categories, I determined the population per athlete sent, population per gold won, population per medal won, athletes per gold won, and athletes per medal won. The results are quite interesting. Please keep in mind that the accuracy of the results rest on the accuracy of the website (athletes per country) and a guy crunching the numbers during his lunch hours two summers ago.

Using all the data, here are some overall results. Almost every (200) country sent athletes. There were 10,500 athletes by my count. There were actually somewhere near 12,000 or 13,000 so I know that figure is incorrect. But the ratios should still be fairly accurate. If anyone can direct me to somewhere that has the accurate number of athletes per country, I will revise the numbers to see if there is any change. 57 countries won golds and 75 won medals. The largest country not to win a medal was Pakistan (159 million). Algeria was the country that sent the most athletes (80) and did not win a medal. India was the largest country (1.07 billion) not to win a gold and Mexico sent the most athletes (114)without winning a gold. The country of Nauru had the lowest population per athlete sent (4270). Myanmar (Burma) had the highest population per athlete sent (42.72 million, talk about pressure). For comparison the US was 121 out of 200 in this category, Canada was 75. The rest is in table form in order to reduce the text.

Population per medal won
150,000 - The Bahamas (#1)
406,000 - Australia (#2)
420,000 - Cuba (#3)
2,710,000 - Canada (#38)
2,840,000 - USA (#62)
6,860,000 - Average
1,065,000,000 - India (#75)

Population per gold won
300,000 - The Bahamas (#1)
915,000 - Norway (#2)
1,170,000 - Australia (#3)
8,370,000 - USA (#34)
10,840,000 - Canada (#38)
21,180,000 - Average
238,000,000 - Indonesia (#57)

# of athletes per medal won
3.80 - Azerbaijan (#1)
4.00 - United Arab Emirates (#2)
4.33 - Zimbabwe (#3)
5.95 - USA (#6)
11.15 - Average
13.92 - Canada (#45)
106 - Ireland (#72)

# of athletes per gold won
4.00 - United Arab Emirates (#1)
8.63 - Romania (#2)
10.60 - Norway (#3)
17.51 - USA (#12)
34.41 - Average
67.67 - Canada (#46)
142.00 - Czech Republic (#57)

But the above numbers can be a bit skewed since small countries can send many athletes or if a few people win medals from a small country, they can bump up their percentage. So if the countries are limited to those of at least 10 million people and at least 50 athletes, there are only 42 countries left. So now how does it stack up.

Population per medal won
406,000 - Australia (#1)
420,000 - Cuba (#2)
590,000 - Hungary (#3)
2,710,000 - Canada (#18)
2,840,000 - USA (#19)
5,560,000 - Average
1,065,000,000 - India (#42)

Population per gold won
1,170,000 - Australia (#1)
1,250,000 - Hungary (#2)
1,260,000 - Cuba (#3)
8,370,000 - USA (#16)
10,840,000 - Canada (#19)
17,020,000 - Average
76,120,000 - Egypt (#36)

# of athletes per medal won
3.41 - Russia (#1)
3.63 - Romania (#2)
5.93 - Cuba (#3)
5.95 - USA (#4)
6.45 - Average
16.92 - Canada (#27)
60 - India (#42)

# of athletes per gold won
8.63 - Romania (#1)
11.63 - Russia (#2)
12.72 - China (#3)
17.51 - USA (#6)
28.91 - Average
67.67 - Canada (#28)
142.00 - Czech Republic (#36)

So what does this all say? Well for one, Australia, Hungary, and Cuba are good. Romania, Russia, and China are good at sending only their best athletes. It was noted in the media here in Canada that maybe they were sending too many and these statistics kinda confirm it. Contrary to what I was trying to prove, the US does quite well with the athletes they send. Yes, they had the most athletes, most golds, and most medals, but these statistics do show that relative to their population, they were not the best. They were middle of the pack.

I plan to do the same for these Winter Olympics. If I remember correctly, a preliminary look last time around suggested that Norway is quite dominant. Look for the Winter installment in March. It'll take a few lunch hours.


GP said...

Did you take into account the fact that there can be many athletes on one sports team but they only win one medal? The interesting statistics would need to be in terms of competitions entered, not athletes attending.

Unknown said...

Thanks gp. I was thinking the same thing as I was compiling the number of athletes. A winning team of 12 athletes would only count for one medal. On the flip side, one athlete can compete in multiple events and win multiple medals. I could account for that, but it would be even more labor intensive that what I have already done. I had a difficult time finding fairly accurate athlete counts from each country.

I may try it for these Olympics since there are fewer countries, athletes, and events.

For all previous Olympics, I was not able to track down the number of athletes from each country. So those studies will be medal to population analyses.

Anonymous said...

Nice blog…nice find...bigger population = more athletes = better chances of winning!!! keep up the good work man!

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