Tag Archives: sport

Empire Games

Many readers have been expecting me to post a follow-up to my Olympic analysis of four years ago. I was in fact expecting it myself and even started collecting data, but somehow it has not happened. Fortunately, regular contributor (and some time beer coaster calculator), James Glover has stepped into the void.

It’s at about this time every four years that the same old boring analysis of Olympic Medals [not for everyone! Ed.] is brought out showing Olympic medals per capita, per GDP, per dollar spent etc. While this is all very useful, this particular Olympics it has failed to show Australia “punching above its weight” and is thus, in reality, the dominant sporting nation not just on the planet, but in the whole of history as well. The Fairfax press has tried to prove this thesis, but there is a spoiler. However you cut it we came out of the top half dozen nations. Personally I don’t think coming 10th in the gold medal count is really that bad. At least we beat the Kiwis right? Hmmm, that gets me thinking…

Actually it also occurs to me that were we just to reach out across the Ditch and extend a filial hand to our beloved New Zealand cousins, combined our trans-Tasman teams and competed under an ANZAC flag we would have finished an even more respectable 5th just behind Russia.

So this got me thinking. How would other groups of nations, alliances or indeed, past empires, have fared in the Games of the XXXth Olympiad? I can’t guarantee my geography is precise (and it is not up for discussion) but here is my best take on it. For these purposes I have not included the US in the British Empire because frankly it was their choice to leave without seeking permission.

In the interests of fairness I have allocated only part of the tally in some cases to take into account that (i) the Romans did not conquer Scotland or Ireland (so 50% of Team GB), and (ii) Quebec is not part of the Anglosphere (so they only get 75% of Canada’s tally – this on advice of a non-Quebecois Canadian). Feel free to continue this game – Axis vs Allies, the French Empire of Bonaparte vs British Empire at the same time. Endless fun now our cold winter days are no longer warmed by the Olympic flame. Interesting to see that in terms of Empires the British come behind the Mongolian Empire and the Roman Empire wins on weighted medals (3,2,1) if not on gold medals alone.

In any event the result proves the strongest alliance of all time is NATO – both the strongest military alliance and, if they wished, the strongest sporting one. Maybe money doesn’t buy you medals but it would seem that missiles do!

Empire/Alliance Gold Silver Bronze Total Weighted % Total
NATO 138 129 139 406 811 45%
EU 95 96 103  294 580  32%
Anglosphere 98 73.75 79 249.5 520 29%
Roman Empire 68 79  72.5 219.5 435 24%
Mongolian Empire 75 54 64 193 397 22%
British Empire 58 58 71 186 361  20%
Soviet Union 45 41 67 153 284 16%
ANZAC 14 18 17 48 95 5.3%

Paralympics Medal Tallies by Population and GDP

The 2008 Paralympic Games are now well underway in Beijing. Since my Olympic medal charts on Swivel proved popular, I have now created a data set for the Paralympics as well, which I will be updating regularly (source: Beijing 2008 Paralympics website). One of the topics I touched on during the Olympics was the influence of the size of a country’s population and economy on their performance at the Games. This topic did prove controversial with at least one reader and the links may be more tenuous for the Paralympics. Neverthless, I will risk revisiting the subject here.

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Olympic Medals per Capita – Update

Since my last post, about Beijing 2008 Olympic rankings by population and economy size, there has been a lot of action in the medals per capita stakes. The Bahamas knocked Jamaica from the number one spot with a Bronze in the triple-jump, only to have Jamaica regain the crown as it continued to win Gold in track and field. Then, with a Silver in the Men’s 4 x 400m relay, the Bahamas got to the front again in what is now an unassailable lead.

For the blow-by-blow on MPC, visit the LA Times MPC blog. I can’t help mentioning that Australia has now pulled ahead of New Zealand!

Previously, the charts I used were static, unable to keep up with these rapid changes so, although the Games are drawing to a close now, I thought I would include Swivel charts which will update as the last results come through. This time I am showing rankings in terms of a simple total medal count per million of population (previously I used a points system, 3 points for Gold, etc).
Beijing Olympics 2008: Medals per mil. Population by Country
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Olympic Medal Count by Population and GDP

Now that the swimming is over, Australia is likely to see its rankings in the Olympic medal tally start to fall. To feel better about this situation, people like to start pointing out that we still look pretty good for a small country and it’s certainly true that of the countries currently in the medal tally (as at 22 August 2008), we rank only 36th in terms of population. Ever since I blogged about the data-sharing site  Swivel, I have been regularly updating a data-set with the medal tally. So, it was a simple matter to add in population as well. The chart below provides a high-level overview of the medal results by population. It shows both the total number of medals won and the gold medals. The further a country sits in this chart above a 45 degree line, the better it is doing by population.

Total Medals (blue) and Gold medals by Population

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Online Data and Charts with Swivel

I recently came across the OECD Factbook blog written by Jérôme Cukier, who works as a data editor for the OECD. He has an excellent post on publishing charts in blogs.

As regular readers of the Mule will know, I don’t mind posting the odd chart and in the process I have grappled with the less than ideal results that the Excel to image production-cycle can produce. Jérôme’s process discusses these challenges and illustrates the results of different techniques (although I had more luck with copying as a picture and saving to PNG format than he had, so perhaps the choice of picture editor is a factor as well). As far as possible, I try to avoid using Excel altogether for producing charts and instead use the statistical package R, which can produce charts directly to a number of image formats including JPG and PNG. Although Jérôme doesn’t mention R, it does crop up in the first of the comments on his post.

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