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Olympic medals: an alternative perspective

August 16, 2012

Olympic medals: an alternative perspective

Iran, Hungary and New Zealand, step forward. We’re among the three most improved nations in the London 2012 Olympic medal tally, according to a University of Waikato number cruncher.

Associate Professor David Coy teaches accounting at Waikato Management School and has diced and sliced medal hauls for the past four Olympics on the basis of each participating country’s GDP, population size, and Olympic squad size.

His calculations are based on five points for a gold medal, three points for a silver and one point for a bronze.

Overall the results show that the wealthy countries dominate, says Dr Coy.

“Thirty-six countries sent teams of more than 100, and all gained more than one medal; these 36 accounted for 72% of the athletes (7,744) but they collected 84% (804 out of 962) of the medals.”

The nations that improved most compared with the 2008 Beijing Olympics were Hungary which increased its medal count from 10 to 17, medal points from 33 to 57, and overall ranking from 33rd to 10th, and New Zealand (9 to 13 medals, 23 to 41 points, and 27th to 15th position).

Australia on the other hand fell from fifth to eighth place, and its points total dropped by 28% from 132 to 95.

Calculating medal points based on per capita GDP and population size together, the medals table reveals the same countries in the top five in London as in Beijing -- Ethiopia, China, Kenya, Russia and Ukraine.

The United States comes in tenth, after North Korea and Cuba.

The standout achiever is Iran, says Dr Coy. “Iran improved from 47th in Beijing to eighth on this basis, and its medal points tally from 6 to 38. In fact, Iran’s points tally of 38 is close to New Zealand’s 41, yet Iran achieved this outcome with only 53 competing athletes compared with New Zealand’s 184!”


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