Crawl Across the Ocean

Monday, March 01, 2010

Vancouver 2010: Results Summary

I discussed my approach to measuring Olympic success back in this post but here's a quick summary, before I post the results updated for Vancouver.

1) 4 points are awarded for a gold medal, 3 points for a silver, 2 for a bronze. This reflects the higher value placed on gold and silver, as well as the drop off from 3rd to 4th, with many athletes who finish 4th in one Olympics, continuing on for 4 more years for the chance to get a medal, but I've never heard of an athlete who got bronze going for 4 more years to try and get silver.

2) In each sport, I compute the percentage of total points available for that sport that each country has achieved rather than adding up the number of medals. For example, if the Americans were to get one gold, one silver and one bronze in Nordic Combined, then they would have 9 points out of a total 27 (27 because there are 3 Nordic Combined Events, and each event has 9 total points available) for 33% of the total freestyle skiing points. This controls for increases in the number of events within a given sport over time. It's a judgment call, but would it really seem right to count biathlon (with 10 events and 30 medals) for 5x the value of hockey (2 events, 6 medals)?

3) Each country's total score is expressed as a percentage of total points available (which is 100% for each sport). This corrects for inflation over time due to steady increases in the number of sports competed.

So here's the total for Vancouver (medal count in brackets - total - gold/silver/bronze):

1. Canada 15.5% (26 - 14/7/5)
2. U.S.A. 15.2% (37 - 9/15/13)
3. Germany 13.4% (30 - 10/13/7)
4. Austria 7.4% (16 - 4/6/6)
5. Norway 6.4% (23 - 9/8/6)
6. China 4.5% (11 - 5/2/4)
7. Russia 4.5% (15 - 3/5/7)
8. Switzerland 4.4% (9 - 6/0/3)
9. South Korea 4.1% (14 - 6/6/2)
10. Sweden 3.4% (11 - 5/2/4)
11. France 3.3% (11 - 2/3/6)
12. Poland 2.2% (6 - 1/3/2)
13. Finland 2.1% (5 - 0/1/4)
14. Latvia 1.9% (2 - 0/2/0)
15. Netherlands 1.8% (8 - 4/1/3)

This is the first time that Canada has ever topped the medal table by this methodology. Canada comes out ahead despite having 11 fewer medals than the U.S. because the Canadian medals were shinier (more gold, less silver and bronze) and because they came in sports with fewer events (e.g. hockey, curling) vs. those with more events (e.g. Alpine Skiing). The Austrians were likely disappointed by their lack of success in Alpine Skiing, but off the slopes they did quite well. The most extreme example of how the methodology penalizes countries that only excel at one sport is the Netherlands, which won 8 medals to the Latvians 2, but won almost all of them in long track speed skating and ranks lower as a result.

To put Canada's performance at Vancouver into historical context, here are a couple of charts (click to enlarge). The first compares Canada's percentage score with that of Norway, Austria, the U.S.A., Germany (adding the West and East scores for the years of two German teams) and Russia (using U.S.S.R. or Unified Team scores for the relevant years).

The second chart is Canada's performance on it's own, you can see that despite only winning two more medals than in 2006, Canada scored much higher in Vancouver.

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  • Found you from comments -- interesting stuff. However, do you account for the fact that in most team sports/events (basically anything other than bobsled/doubles luge), it is impossible to win more than one medal?

    For instance, Canada was only allowed one hockey team and one curling team, the US was only allowed one nordic combined team, the Norwegians were only allowed one cross-country relay team, etc.

    Shouldn't this affect the total number of medals available and therefore your percentages? Is it possible to correct for this?

    By Blogger AJS, at 7:26 AM  

  • I didn't make any adjustment for that as I'm not sure how you would correct for the possibility, say, that Canada could have won a silver or bronze as well in men's curling had we been allowed to enter a second team. I wouldn't expect it to make a huge difference to the overall results, though.

    By Blogger Declan, at 7:38 AM  

  • Well you wouldn't account for how Canada would have done had it been able to enter another a team. You would just reduce the total available medals in curling to 1 (per gender), right?

    By Blogger AJS, at 8:08 AM  

  • Well, you could reduce the total number of medals available, but then the percentages wouldn't add up properly. I guess that is OK, but it offends my sense of order somehow.

    By Blogger Declan, at 8:23 PM  

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