Olympics-what went wrong

Following Canada’s olympic debacle last summer, there arose a hue and cry for increased funding for our Olympic athletes. However I notice that the richest country in the world, America didn’t do much better than us. On a per capita basis, poor Cuba outperformed Canada by 1000% and Australia outperformed America by 600% It seems to me that capitalist North Americans are a bunch of spoiled softies and no amount of money will change that.

Some facts: countries/gold medals/population(millions)2001/gold medals per million capita…Cuba/11/11.2/1.0…Australia/16/19.4/0.83…USA/39/278.1/0.14…Canada/3/31.6/0.10

Don’t forget that the sizes of the Olympic contingents from each country are not proportional to its population. The US and China didn’t get any more people on their basketball teams than Angola, for instance, or any more gymnasts than Romania. There were many athletes from the larger countries who couldn’t meet the team-size quotas but were still much better than some from the smaller countries.

Also, the medal count lists only single tallies for team-sport wins - a soccer team’s gold doesn’t count any more in that list than an archer’s, even though 20 people won it together.

You could probably adjust for the sizes of teams in the team-sport medal list, but not for the different talent cut-offs for even making a country’s squad in the first place.

An obvious skewing factor in your stats is the different number of medals in different sports. For instance, swimming has 32 golds to give out. If your country is good at swimming (like Australia), you’ll clearly come out ahead in the medal count. (Other good ones: Gymnastics (14), Shooting (17)). OTOH, being good at soccer won’t show up barely at all since there are a grand total of 2 medals given out.

So it’s really a pointless metric for comparing countries, even if you keep the size of the teams in mind.

ElvisL1ves wrote:

And worse, some Olympic competitions give out several medals for very closely related events, which allow the same athlete or team to win more than one medal. In swimming, there are different medals for 50 meter freestyle, 100 meter freestyle, 100 meter butterfly, 100 meter freestyle relay, 200 meter freestyle relay, etc… One very talented athlete or team could come away with several gold medals. Whereas in soccer or baseball, there is ONE gold medal awarded to the winning team, and there are no “variants” like 3-inning baseball or 50-meter soccer.

Darn it, SmackFu, you must’ve posted your message while I was composing mine!

I’m glad to see that while Cuba may be full of rampant poverty, and least they have lots of medals to go around :rolleyes:. I really don’t see why the whole matter of medal tallies is given so much importance. Seems like nothing more than another variant of conspicuous consumption to me (which makes the USSR, China, and Cuba’s emphasis on it ironic).

P.S. sorry about what happened to your “Doesn’t the Sun orbit around the Earth” thread. I thought it was an interesting thought experiment.

I think people are overlooking something here: in a capitalist country, the best athletes go where they can make the most money. In a communist country, they go where they’re assigned.

Thus, a Cuban kid who has great speed, great strength AND great agility would be discovered by the Cuban ministry of sport and channelled into training for the decathlon. On the other hand, an American kid with that kind of ability would become an NFL running back, an NBA power forward, or a power-hitting major league outfielder. What, you don’t think Bo Jackson could’ve been a heck of a decathlete, if he’d tried?

I have little doubt that a guy like Tony Siragusa COULD have become a champion weightlifter if he’d chosen to go that route. He realized he’d make more money as a lineman in the NFL. Cuba’s strongest men become Olympic weightlifters. Ours become nose tackles and right guards.

In sum, Cuba’s best athletes all go to the Olympics. Ours (and Canada’s) go to major sports leagues where they can make a lot more money.

The USA won the gold in baseball. That’s what was important!

I sang a song about Tommy Lasorda once…