Saturday, August 11, 2012

Olympic Medal Count - Factors

As the Olympics wind down, many sports fans are looking at the number of medals won by each country.  Historically, the medals compiled by participating countries has been related to several key factors, including:

  • population
  • financial and/or economic resources, and
  • home field advantage.  
This year, the current leaders include the U.S., China, Great Britain, and Russia.  The always interesting Bleacher Report writes:

It should stand to reason that a country among the global leaders in available financial and human resources would be far more successful in athletic events that require elite athleticism, expensive training and state-of-the-art facilities.  

And, we have seen patriotism at the Olympic Games lead to some historic triumphs, such as the 1980 Miracle on Ice.   NPR reports more on the home field advantage, academic papers on the "Olympic Medal Analyses" -- and even an additional factor: communism!  Right around the time of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, two academic papers on medal counts came out, by Bernard of Dartmouth, and Johnson of Colorado College.  Here is a link to Bernard's paper.

Check these nice graphics out by the Huffington Post -- which shows totals medals, as well as medals divided by population or GDP.   Numbers -- and pictures -- can tell interesting stories!