Gold rushers

Not only have I been closely watching the relative positions of the countries in the Olympic medal table, as Great Britain first climbed, then eased slowly away from Australia, Germany and Russia to cement their number three spot; I’ve also been looking at the relative split of medal metals won by each country.

As an aside, apparently the USA insists on sorting the medals table by total number of medals won, putting them in the lead with 79 medals over China’s 76. The traditional sorting method has always been by the number of golds, with ties settled by number of silvers, then by number of bronzes. This can appear harsh, with Cuba (1, 5, 5) trailing Georgia (2, 0, 1), and Hungary (0, 4, 1) trailing Tunisia (1, 0, 0). But it strikes me as a more sensible approach without resorting to putting a subjective weighting on the value of each metal. (As a further aside, assigning 3/2/1 points for G/S/B would still leave China ahead of the USA at the top. But Russia would leap to third ahead of Great Britain.

Back to the point: relative medal counts. (All data taken as at end of today’s events.) Once a medal is on the cards, which country is the most hungry for gold? The quotient: # golds/# medals.

There are six spurious examples, Bahrain, Cameroon, India, Panama, Thailand and Tunisia all having won a single medal, it being gold. Each of them therefore has a 100% record in converting medals to gold. But if we instead look at the countries with a sufficiently high numerator to deem them worthy of analysis, then it might be best to take the top 16 countries in the standard-sorted medals table, all of which have won three or more golds.

Slovakia in 16th is hungriest for gold, with a 75% (three of four) conversion rate—too few medals to count, perhaps. China sits second at 57%, impressive given its huge denominator; Romania third (50%) and Great Britain fourth (48%). At the bottom of the scale, France has converted a mere 14% to gold, then Russia (24%), Ukraine (29%), and Netherlands and Australia (31%). The USA has a pretty even spread of medals; 26 gold (33%), 26 silver, 27 bronze medals. Phelps’ absence would have brought their quotient down to around 25%.

Perhaps these figures show countries’ appetite for success; although they will be skewed by events in which multiple athletes from a single country win medals, the Women’s 100m for example, a clean-sweep for Jamaica.


One Response to “Gold rushers”

  1. art vandelay on August 19th, 2008 23:50

    sloppy. in what way does this measure ‘hunger’ for gold? No. This shows anthropomorphic tendencies which I do not appreciate.

    And you want to be my latex salesman.

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