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Olympic Medal Prediction Model

CmdrTaco posted more than 10 years ago | from the bring-on-the-beach-volleyball dept.

Entertainment 357

bettiwettiwoo writes "Slate reports that PricewaterhouseCooper claims to have devised a model predicting the final medal tally for nations competing in the Olympic Games. GDP is of particular importance in bringing home the bacon, closely followed by population size and and past performance. Other factors can also affect the outcome: hosting the games usually gives a medal boost. With the possible exception of China, the titan nations of the games (US, Russia, China and Germany) are predicted to see a successive drop in their total medal tally in the future (and compared to the Sydney Games, the future starts now). So if you were wondering why the Iraqi soccer team seems on its way to the quarter finals, why Greece takes gold in synchronized diving, or why Michael Phelps has to eat Ian Thorpe's bubbles, don't worry: it's only evolution, baby, and it's all perfectly predictable!"

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fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9989809)

fp mck

First (past the) post ? (-1, Offtopic)

maharg (182366) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989811)

..couldn't resist ;o)

Olympics (5, Funny)

lachlan76 (770870) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989820)

The Olympics are about skill, and how many medals a country gets would depend on how skilled the athletes are.

Skill != Evolution

Re:Olympics (1, Insightful)

civman2 (773494) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989844)

Well surely it does. Atheletes are getting better techniques and strategies every games. Otherwise explain how a 4 minute mile was an unacheivable goal 100 years ago and can now be attained by high school students?

Re:Olympics (3, Insightful)

DavidpFitz (136265) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989854)

The Olympics are about skill, and how many medals a country gets would depend on how skilled the athletes are.
Nothing to do with the amount of money their country has to pump into sports, the facilities they have grown up with, who has the best doping doctors who get past detection. Nothing like that, of course. It's all about the individual's skill. Hmm.

A gold medal may require skill, but it needs a whole lot more besides (unfortunately).

Re:Olympics (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990004)

You're both right, of course. Skills are what it's about, one hundred percent. All that other stuff is just there so the athlete can hone his (or her) skills.

Also, Proximity to the medium you race in!!! (1, Funny)

essreenim (647659) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990049)

Yes, true but its also about inclination towards certain sports. For example, the vast majority of Aussies live near the sea and so are inclined towards water sports, particularly swimmimg. Thats why they own every one (per population) in the pool!!

Re:Also, Proximity to the medium you race in!!! (1)

lachlan76 (770870) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990132)

Cricket/AFL/Rugby are more popular in Australia than watersports.

Re:Olympics (2, Interesting)

BlueCup (753410) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989856)

Well, the way this article is written, it's not so much skill that they're focusing on, though it's not really evolution either... it seems more like sociology, and the "evolution" of civilizations... So, evolution works, but not so much the biological aspects of it. Skill (and, to some extent, yes biological evolution, and sometimes drugs =)) is the deciding factor for a single person gaining a gold medal, but this isn't about what specific people are getting the medals, but what amount a country will get.

Re:Olympics (4, Informative)

Lev13than (581686) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989939)

In a similar exercise, a pair of business professors have predicteding the final Olympic medal count [dartmouth.edu] using socio-economic data rather than athletic performance. Andrew Bernard [dartmouth.edu] and Meghan Busse [berkeley.edu] developed their methodology using four factors: population, per capita income, past performance, and a host effect.
They were 96% accurate in their predictions for the 2000 Games, including correctly guessing 97 total and 37 gold medals for the USA. Also discussed is why some countries, such as Australia, surpass expectations while others, particularly Canada and Japan, underperform relative to countries with similar populations/national income.
This year's predicted winners? The USA (93), Russia (83) and China (57). The full paper was published in the Feb 2004 Review of Economics and Statistics [mit.edu] - summary here [dartmouth.edu] .

Re:Olympics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9989877)

The last sentence of the article reminded me of the music video for Pearl Jam's "Do the Evolution."

Now I have the girl's face from the video in my head, it's kinda scary :-P

Re:Olympics (1)

ViolentGreen (704134) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989883)

That's very true. I don't think it is talking about evolution in the darwinian sense though. I think it's refering to the olympics evolving.

Re:Olympics (1)

JosKarith (757063) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989891)

On the contrary, increasing skill is a part of evolution. Evolution is the constant change - usually for the better - in response to environmental pressures. An increased level of skill in a task frequently performed is an example of such behaviour. Although true evolution works on a much grander scale it is not true to say there is no link.

Re:Olympics (0)

lachlan76 (770870) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989948)

But skills evolve entirely depending on what country you're in?

Re:Olympics (2, Interesting)

Keitopsis (766128) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989919)

I agree that skill and evolution are not the same, but we are also looking at is the "specialist" problem.

The so-called "first-world" nations can have a specialty programs to develop the skills of their atheletes, not to mention be able to identify potential atheletes through their education systems. Smaller nations cannot devote the manpower or economy to such programs. It is interesting to note that there is a lag function involved using prior achievement to show the effectiveness of the national athletic organizations. So what we are looking at is the skill of individuals being improved through the improvement of all athletic programs.

I think this is an interesting proof that the world quality of life is leveling off.

Re:Olympics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9990079)

I think this is an interesting proof that the world quality of life is leveling off.

Well, at least if one looks only at the 2 Olympic delegates out of a population of around 2M.

Re:Olympics Outsourcing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9990130)

>
Smaller nations cannot devote the manpower or economy to such programs.
Correct. That's why they outsource to the USA. You'd be surprised how many Olympians are US citizens/permanent residents. Swimming and Track & Field come to mind. The local TV had a story about a local girl swimming for some foreign country, and in years past they've had stories about the US-raised athletes competing for Trinidad & Tobago in the 100m. It's a joke.

Australians are the best right now (1)

essreenim (647659) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989989)

..if thats the case.
They're GDP is not much different to US. But they have far less people - only about 30million compared to over 250 in the US. They are particularly good a churning out great swimmers.

I think part of the reason is, they invest allot in sports psychology, and given that 90% of Aussies live on or very near the sea, water is in their blood. They just like to swim!!!

Re:Australians are the best right now (1)

lachlan76 (770870) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990002)

Yes, I love my country.

I like swimming.

Aussie swimmers kick ass!

Re:Australians are the best right now (4, Funny)

pommiekiwifruit (570416) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990017)

Nothing like sharks, blue-ringed octopus, crocodiles and jellyfish to give aussies incentives to swim faster :-)

Re:Australians are the best right now (3, Funny)

freqres (638820) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990036)

think part of the reason is, they invest allot in sports psychology, and given that 90% of Aussies live on or very near the sea, water is in their blood. They just like to swim!!!

I think the sharks make good training partners as well. For the swimmers that don't make the cut, not only is the water in their blood, their blood is in the water. Australia is starting to sound a lot like Soviet Russia.

Re:Australians are the best right now (1)

kimba (12893) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990057)

The real figures sound even better - there are 20 million Aussies, and just shy of 300 million Americans.

Vital step missing (2, Insightful)

gowen (141411) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989828)

The variable they seem to have omitted is Propensity of country's sporting bodies to turn blind eye to positive drugs tests."

Thats the primary explaination for the success of the Eastern Europeans in the 60s and 70s, and US Athletics since then.

Re:Vital step missing (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9989946)

The major doping moving from eastern europe to the US since the late 70's? God, come on. Who's star atheletes are in trouble right now? And I think we all remember how those doped up kids from the US beat the Russian hockey team.

Doping by atheletes is a world wide problem and it takes place in every country. The US is in no way more guilty of it than any other western European country, that's for sure.

And this gets +5 Insightful. Just shows how you post anything anti-US on slashdot gets you +5.

Re:Vital step missing (3, Informative)

gowen (141411) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990052)

Who's star atheletes are in trouble right now?
Well, last I checked, it was Tim Montgomery (THG, via BALCO), Marion Jones (ditto), Torri Edwards (Nikeathon), Kevin Toth, John McEwen, Melissa Price, Regina Edwards, Kelli White. Throw in a previous positive tests from Carl Lewis, that was swept under the carpet. Need I go on? I could.

Fortunately, with USADA, this looks like it might change.

See this [yahoo.com] or this [bbc.co.uk] for examples.

PS : Hockey is not governed by US Athletics, which is, unsurprisingly, concened with Athletics.

Re:Vital step missing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9990101)

So you're actually claiming that no other athletes in the world are doping, that it's only done in the US?

Holy crap, so what's next, an explanation of how it's Bush's fault? Or wait, Cheney's. No, Rumsfeld's. Powell's? Uh.. no wait, it's *always* Kissinger's fault!

Re:Vital step missing (1)

gowen (141411) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990115)

So you're actually claiming that no other athletes in the world are doping, that it's only done in the US?
Err, no. I'm not saying anything like that. For example, Dwain Chambers, a British athlete, was also recently banned for using THG. So stop setting up idiotic strawmen.

But, if you followed the sport, you'd know that US Athletics has an absolutely shocking track record when dealing with doping.

Re:Vital step missing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9990156)

The US is in no way more guilty of it than any other western European country, that's for sure.

But they are, sorry. To say that the US and especially the US Track and Field association has a bad track record when it comes to doping would really be an understatement. Just look at what they did during the Olympic Games in Sydney. There were american athletes that were doped, the US Olympic Comitee knew they were doped and ..................

nothing happened, they covered it up.

You don't believe me, try a google search, I'm sure you will be able to find an incredible amount of articles on the subject.

There are further stories to be told, like US Athletes constantly dodging required doping tests with no consequences whatsoever.

And of course there is the Balco case.
I'm sure google will be your friend in finding information about this too.

Last but not least, this does in no way mean that doping isn't a global phenomenon and that there isn't widespread doping in other nations too, but the US has a particular bad reputation when it comes to fighting doping and this reputation is well deserved.

Re:Vital step missing (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990007)

Additionally, there's also the local government's willingess to fund the teams. Here in the USA, the USOC doesn't get direct government funding, but they get a special law that makes the Olympic rings trademark stronger than the usual trademark.

Re:Vital step missing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9990065)

How do you know that that variable actually has an influence in the model unless you've statistically tested it for significance, controlling for other variables? Isn't what you're saying just blind conjecture, and worse yet, politically motivated? Is that how science should be done? Or perhaps you have links to published reports, now that I'd be interested in seeing. Not you're ignorant rants though.

Woah (5, Funny)

Xpilot (117961) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989832)

What's with all the links to half-naked men? Dammit, Slashdot has gone all metrosexual these days.

Relevence ??? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9989837)

How about we forgot about this silly talley and watch the outcome as it unfolds...

Mandelbrot (2, Interesting)

m00nun1t (588082) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989839)

I'm sure Mandelbrot will claim to predict this [slashdot.org] sooner or later.

Actually (1)

caitsith01 (606117) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990151)

Actually, I will lay claim to having predicted this, right here. [everything2.com]

...and they called me crazy! Well, who's a high paid consultant at PwC now? Hahahahahahaaa!

Predictability... (1)

dmayle (200765) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989840)

and it's all perfectly predictable!

While that's one thing Vegas will no longer be taking bets for...

But.. (5, Funny)

rf0 (159958) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989848)

..it still doesn't tell us who to bet on in the Womens beach volleyball. Damn now I'm going to have to watch every match to find out

Rus

always root against... (2, Funny)

zeus_tfc (222250) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989969)

Sorry, that made me think of a Top Secret! line:

Hillary Flammond: Who do you favor in the Virginia Slims tournament?
Blindman: In women's tennis, I always root against the heterosexual.

Re:But.. (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990076)

Stuff beach volleyball. I'm following the Japanese womens' gymnastics team...

They neglect the important question (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9989851)

Why does Puerto Rico have its own Olympic team?

It's part of the United States, so why? Because it's not a state? No. Washington, DC isn't a state and you don't see it with its own team. This just doesn't make any sense.

Re:They neglect the important question (2, Informative)

Skier4Life (655714) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990037)

After reading your comment I did a quick search in Google News and found this article.
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/94 21036.htm?1c [mercurynews.com]
The ironic thing about the article is it recommends DC field a basketball team.

Also, if you want more information on Puerto Rico you can go to this link.
http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Puerto_Rico [wordiq.com]

Re:They neglect the important question (2, Informative)

I confirm I'm not a (720413) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990053)

Why does Puerto Rico have its own Olympic team?

Maybe because it's self-governing [wikipedia.org] ? Sport seems odd like that: for most events (not the Olympics, but most -all? - others) the UK does not compete: England, Scotland and Wales do instead (and Northern Irish athletes compete with Ireland).

Sport's wierd like that. My advice is to pick just one sport (I picked Women's Beach Volleyball) and stick with it, ignoring all the other nonsense sports fans are supposed to participate in (except maybe drinking beer. Beer's OK.)

Re:They neglect the important question (5, Informative)

adolfojp (730818) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990169)

Perhaps I can answer your question.

Puerto Rico is not part of the USA, it belongs to the USA. It was given to the USA by Spain in 1898 afted its defeat in the Spanish American War.

Although its constitution names it a Comonwealth, it is actually a colony, a territory with some form of limited local government. Puerto Ricans are US citizens, and use the Dolar as a currency. We must abide by the American governmet, yet we cannot vote for the President or have representation in the Senate or in the Congress.

So there you have it, Puerto Rico is not part of the USA, it is an american territory.

On a related issue. About the future status of the island. 47% of the voters want statehood, 47% want to preserve the status quo and the remaining 6% want its independence. As you can infer from these numbers, the matters of status are actively debated on a daily basis, yet, no change seems posible in the near future.


Cheers,

Adolfo

No Good? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9989853)

so *being good* has nothing to do with it?

ah.. so much like politics...

Re:No Good? (1)

caitsith01 (606117) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990061)

Correct. Being 'good' is just an amalgam of money, population from which to select specimens, logistics, mentality of competitors etc. etc.

Unless you would care to assert that there is a genetic (i.e. racial) reason for 'goodness', in which case you are a braver person than I.

hosting the games usually gives a medal boost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9989862)

> Other factors can also affect the outcome: hosting the games usually gives a
> medal boost.

Huh - that would explain why Greece is doing so well at the diving events at the UKs expense.

Re:hosting the games usually gives a medal boost (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9989961)

We don't need a statistical model to tell us British that we'll get sweet FA at the Olympics.

Still, we'll always have that Silver in Syncronised Diving! Now there's a sport to be proud of...

Had anyone else heard of Sync. diving before we won Silver? Anybody, anybody, Bueller?

Lies... (1, Interesting)

NETHED (258016) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989865)

There are lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.

This might sound good and all, but comon, this just reinforces common sense.

Ok, if country A has lots of money, then they can train thier athletes.
If country A has had good athletes before, it stands that they will have good athelets in the future.

The question I ask, did this predict Thorpeo's upset of the American swimmer? I think not

Re:Lies... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9989984)

Thorpedo's victory was an upset?

WTF?

Thorpey held the WR, had 9 of the fastest times ever, had not been nbeaten in the distance for 4 years.... add to that Phelps had never gone close to any of Thorpe's times.

Phelps lowered his PB and got third - which, when you look at his performances over the distance is in fact a bloody good result personally for him.

The fact is, it would have been a pretty major upset for Thorpe to lose to Phelps. It was always goignt o be a race between Hoogie and Thorpe, NOT Thorpe and Phelps - it was only moron commentators who were talkign up the clash that begged to differ.

Past performances always said Thorpe verses Hoogie and guess what - that's exactly how it turned out.

Admittedly, the race did live up to hype as an event. It was a damn good one.

Re:Lies... (2, Insightful)

mike_mgo (589966) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990028)

I haven't followed swimming that closely, but was Phelps really the favorite in that race. I thought van den Hoogenband from the Netherlands (won gold in Sydney) and Thorpe from Australia (world record holder) were both favored over him in that race.

Obviously these statistical models aren't trying to pick winners of individual events, but for this race I think the result was pretty much what people expected, despite what Sports Illustrated or Time Magazine might have put on their covers while trying to sell magazines.

Re:Lies... (1)

Shard013 (530636) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990066)

Americans just don't like losing, so they make a big fuss if they do. America may have been supprised their star swimmer lost, but everyone else would have been shocked if this particular underdog won. He was clearly outmatched by thorpe and the other guy with a really hard name to pronounce.

Re:Lies... (1)

jebell (567579) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990087)

The question I ask, did this predict Thorpeo's upset of the American swimmer? I think not

Upset? Anyone who follows swimming knows Phelps didn't have a chance in the 200 free.

Re:Lies... (1)

TobyWong (168498) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990121)

You make it sound like aussie was a longshot to win, he cleaned up last olympics so I don't see how anyone could possibly be suprised he would be successful again.

Re:Lies... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9990122)

Statistics isn't about predicting an individual race, no one can do that. It's (partly) about analyzing which dependent variables can accurately predict a response variable, in this case, medal count. While it may be 'common sense', it might be interesting to see for each 100Mil$ GDP, how many more medals on average does a country receive? Questions like that can be answered by the statistical model, not your silly betting questions. And that wasn't even an upset, since the odds-on favorite won the race.

Re:Lies... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9990175)

It didn't need a formula to predict Thorpes upset of the American swimmers - he is the greatest short distance swimmer of our time - simple.

My prediction (1)

foidulus (743482) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989871)

The entire population of Luxembourg gets a gold medal in 100 years(namely because they will be the only people left on the planet)

Re:My prediction (1)

Sique (173459) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989997)

But... Luxembourg has won already [olympic.it] two gold medals at the Olympics: One in 1900, and one in 1952, accompagnied by a silver medal in 1920, and two other silver medals in 1992.

Host Country (1, Funny)

worst_name_ever (633374) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989876)

Other factors can also affect the outcome: hosting the games usually gives a medal boost.

I imagine that's due at least in part to the fact that the host country traditionally makes an attempt to field a team in every event, or at least as many as possible.

1. Compete in more events
2. ???
3. Medal profit!

Evolution - or just better training (3, Insightful)

grunt107 (739510) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989893)

For the newer countries entering the competitions, they get better with better facilities and coaching. The US gymnastics got better with the addition of Bella K. The Chinese basketball gets US coaching. International Basketball players get NBA experience and are learning how to trounce the US 'Dream?' team.

Evolution can only be used in this context to explain the improvement of training principles.

Biological evolution would just predict athletes would just get more 'athletier'.

Re:Evolution - or just better training (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9989964)

Biological evolution would just predict athletes would just get more 'athletier'.

Perhaps even more 'athletic' as well.

Thorpedos Win (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9989902)

I am surprised at the comment about Ian Thorpe beating Phelps. It might just that being an aussie he is all you hear about but the thorpedo, the "superfish" or simple thorpie was always expected to win that race (at least according to Australian Media).

I am somewhat surprised that Australia didn't get mentioned in the top 4 predictions, considering the number of athletes we have in Athens.

Finally (To All Australian Slashdotters),

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie.....

Re:Thorpedos Win (1)

donscarletti (569232) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989910)

Oi Oi Oi

Re:Thorpedos Win (1)

DavidpFitz (136265) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989958)

It might just that being an aussie he is all you hear about but the thorpedo, the "superfish" or simple thorpie was always expected to win that race (at least according to Australian Media).
And in the UK - what track record does this young American have? Thorpe proved he can do it at Olympic level at Sydney and has the advantage of having built-in flippers!

Australia was winning (1)

pommiekiwifruit (570416) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989974)

Australia was leading the medal tally at one point (13 medals) but then China overtook it.

And the UK just gets a silver for synchronised diving - with the least identical pair since Schwarzenegger and DeVito in Twins!

Medal metric (1)

caitsith01 (606117) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990091)

Is it true that in the US you are being shown a medal tally that is the sum total of all medals? In Australia we see nations ranked by Gold, then Silver, then Bronze.

Re:Australia was winning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9990140)

We don't feel so bad, China has over 50 times our population.

Iraqi Soccer (2, Insightful)

BlueTooth (102363) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989915)

I assumed that the reason Iraq was doing well had to do with the fact that they don't face torture if the return home in defeat. Policy like that has tended to drive the big stars away over the past years.

Re:Iraqi Soccer (1)

strictfoo (805322) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990008)

Woah woah woah... slow down cowboy! This is slashdot. That comment might be ever so slightly construed as a round-about way to condone US foreign policy. We can't have that here, now can we?

Re:Iraqi Soccer (2, Insightful)

BlueTooth (102363) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990102)

might slightly be construed that way...but just so we all know where we stand i'll point out that there is a big difference between "evil dictator bad" and "us foreign policy good".

how much is a room in your sig going for?

Re:Iraqi Soccer (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990120)

Woah woah woah... slow down cowboy! This is slashdot. That comment might be ever so slightly construed as a round-about way to condone US foreign policy. We can't have that here, now can we?

You know, every time someone says something like that, he weakens his own case ... I'm really sick of all the Bushies trying to act like they're persecuted for their views. They're not, on /. or anywhere else. But it's a remarkably effective bit of propaganda, isn't it?

Ah... moderators on crack again (1)

edinho (145769) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990160)

How did that get an INSIGHTFUL rating is beyond me. Nothing to back it up, purely out of the a$$ conjecture. FLAMEBAIT is probably more appropriate.

Cheers,
e.

Why bother having the olympics? (1)

acomj (20611) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989917)

They say in any given event anything can happen. Thats why they play the games.

Models may be able to approximate overall medal performance but its a little disingenuous because its up to each of the athletes to perform in his/her event.

If the models worked too well gambling on sports would stop.

Re:Why bother having the olympics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9989931)

The models predict trends not individual results.

Re:Why bother having the olympics? (1)

mike_mgo (589966) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990099)

Why would improved models have anything to do with sports betting?

Points spreads and handicapping are already models used (ok, not models really, just a way for bookies to balance the money). Bets are placed all the time on sports where the winner is all but assured. Unless these new models can actually predict the final score or how much faster the winner will be than second place, then there is no reason sports betting shouldn't be able to continue.

Poverty? (1)

kaleco (801384) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989921)

"If you're on the poverty line, you don't have a lot of time to invest in sports," said John Hawksworth, head of macroeconomics at PwC.

This isn't always true. Many athletes come form impoverished backgrounds. This is especially true of football (soccer) in the UK. In Brazillian townships, excelling in sport is seen as a route to a better lifestyle. A fiendish motivator, that.

Re:Poverty? (2, Insightful)

plinkyplonkypk (800218) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989994)

Way to stop reading midway through a paragraph, buddy !

The point is backed up in the next line !

The whole quote:
If you're on the poverty line, you don't have a lot of time to invest in sports," said John Hawksworth, head of macroeconomics at PwC. Poor countries like Brazil can excel in soccer, the one truly global sport. But in nations where the horse is still the primary mode of transportation, not many people have the time or leisure to compete in dressage.

Too true - poverty is one great motivator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9990129)

It also seems to me that poverty is one hell of a motivator to succeed in something like sports.

How many little rich kids wind up succeeding at the highest levels of sport? Outside of baseball's ability to run in families (Griffey, Bonds, Boone, and a bunch more), about the only atheletes that have had long-term success that I can think of and came from monied families are Kobe Bryant and Mike Piazza.

While those that came from dirt-poor backgrounds seem to abound - Lance Armstrong comes to mind immediately, basketball players from the poor inner cities, baseball players from poor Central/South American or Carribean lands, just about all of boxing.

I guess when Daddy can buy you a Bimmer for your 15th birthday so you can learn to drive it gives little reason to practice those jumpers.

Of course there are execeptions, especially in sports like gymnastics that are skewed to those who can pay for the best individualized coaching and training, but these seem to be the exceptions that prove the rule.

The current table (3, Informative)

mi (197448) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989925)

Here is a more or less up to date table [yahoo.com] of the medals so far.

Ukraine is not doing too badly, thank you very much. Not for the third poorest country in Europe anyway.

Nice table (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9990116)

Why don't you try ranking it by Gold, like the official site [athens2004.com] ?

Eating Bubbles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9989928)

The US might have wanted Michael Phelps to win the 200m freestyle, but Thorpie was always the safest bet (Thorp's PB was better than Phelps). I think it would have been an upset had Phelps won, rather than the other way around as the poster implies...

What a steaming pile of crap this "study" is (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9989936)

FFS, what is it with these meaningless studies that really only tell us something we already know?

a) Of course the home country gets a boost in medals! WTF do you think home team advantage is????

b) Those ountires that put resources in get results. Well ... DUH! How the fuck can a pimple on the bum of the earth called Australia (creat.... Sydney person) otherwise compete and beat countires with resources and populations far exceeding it's own? Cause we're all a bunch of freaks - or is it that australians are sports obsessed and throw money at world class programs and institutions?

You know, i could have told you that aust thence will get more results. And I'm no expert

c) well DUH, of course as countries modernise and free time becomes a fact and the population can support pro atheletes....

Ahhh fuck it. Mod article at -1 Bleeding fucking obvious.

Re:What a steaming pile of crap this "study" is (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9990141)

The model is used to quantify which of these effects is most powerful. You can't do that by blind conjecture. Perhaps the study found that some of these variables weren't even as important as once thought. You never know unless you do the research.

The reason Phelps has to eat Thorpe's bubbles (4, Funny)

hayden (9724) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989941)

It's all a cunning plan by Australia to breed the perfect swimmer. It's working well too. Nobody seems to have noticed the size 27 feet. We're going to try to get away with hands the size of hub caps at the next olympics.

Re:The reason Phelps has to eat Thorpe's bubbles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9990123)

You mean size 17 feet don't you?

Ian Thorpe... (-1, Flamebait)

underpar (792569) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989963)

Maybe his win has to do with the fact that the vast majority of aussies live near the ocean.

But when you take into account.... (2, Interesting)

Dj (224) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989965)

When you take into account the size and prosperity of the nations competing, and measure it against their actual performance...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/sydney/story/0,7369,37 66 44,00.html

The winner is Cuba....

oblig simpsons quote (3, Funny)

REBloomfield (550182) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989967)

"You're forgetting what the Olympics are all about: giving out medals of beautiful gold, so-so silver and shameful bronze."

In other news (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989968)

no-one gives a shit. [nwsource.com]

developing countries? (1)

coolcold (805170) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989978)

what about people living in developing countries? fitness (which is related partially to number of gold medals) of a country's population changed with the living conditions eg try to find a good runner in country that still do hunting. a "good" living conditions would make people more lazier thus making it hard to find good player especially evoluation takes place. just a thought

Athletes train in other countries. (1)

NewtonTwo (767015) | more than 10 years ago | (#9989992)

Does this account for the numerous athletes that live and train in countries other than the ones they compete for?

Example from yesterday. Markus Rogan, silver medalist in the mens 100m backstroke trains and competes with Stanford in the USA, however, in this model it appears that medal is credited towards Austria.

Re:Athletes train in other countries. (1)

freqres (638820) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990107)

I also saw a couple of girls competing for Russia in synchronized diving that lived and trained in Texas. Not to mention all the world basketball players that live in the US and play in the NBA. Same thing could be said for hockey players in the winter Olympics, though their are still a few NHL teams left in Canada.

News for who ? (-1, Flamebait)

equex (747231) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990012)

Please don't mention the fucking olympics on a tech site, because every fucking tv channel and newspaper is stuffed with that shit. i havent RTFA and i am not going to either. this sucks.

Possible Hypothesis Test (3, Interesting)

tabdelgawad (590061) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990015)

Mods, bear with me if this seems OT. A history buff friend of mine tells me that there are two main theories of historical development. One is the 'great man theory', where the course of history is determined by great (as in influential, not necessarily nice) individuals. The other is a view that history is inexorably driven by economic and social conditions that lead to inevitable outcomes (think Asimov's 'psychohistory'). Clearly, we're no where close to being able to test these theories empirically.

It strikes me that creating this model for olympic medal winners could provide an excellent 'lab expermient' to test this outstanding question in the philosophy of history. In many ways, international sports resemble international relations (rivalry, preparation, 'war', great (wo)men, winners, losers, etc.). If models can predict medal outcomes with acceptable accuracy, it could provide evidence against the 'great man theory' of history, and imply that a version of 'psychohistory' might be possible in the future!

Jealousy that Australians are kings of the pool !! (1)

essreenim (647659) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990018)

it's only evolution, baby, and it's all perfectly predictable!"
...sounds like it!

here's another paper (1)

flynt (248848) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990024)

I don't believe this is the same group, here is another model for prediction of medal counts.

http://mba.tuck.dartmouth.edu/pages/faculty/andr ew .bernard/olympicmedals.htm

This page contains more information than the news piece in the Slashdot writeup, you can actually see the Math/Stats they used to construct the model. Last year, this group predicted the US's medal count and gold medal count exactly on.

Re:here's another paper (3, Funny)

mgs1000 (583340) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990170)

Last year, this group predicted the US's medal count and gold medal count exactly on.

Zero?

We're talking about last year's Olympics, right?

go Iraq! (1)

jeffy124 (453342) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990063)

That's pretty cool for their soccer team, considering they couldnt play any pre-Olympic exhibition matches and that the first goal they scored during these Olympics was in the wrong net. (They still won that game 4-2 over Portugal [cnn.com] ).

The model reprinted in a terse form. (1, Interesting)

tod_miller (792541) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990069)

Wealthy countries with a larger pool of potential athletes, who have been consistently successful in recent history, and have a government who sponsors athletics, will win more medals.

For my next trick, I shall predict what date Christmas will be on - using only the last 400 years of the Gregorian Calendar, minus the bits where they fsked up.

And no smart asses talking about Orthodox Christmas.

In other news, PWC open the worlds largest betting office...

More interesting stats. (2, Interesting)

pubjames (468013) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990075)

I think the statistic of medals by country is boring - of course bigger countries are likely to get more medals.

I think medals per capita of population is a much more interesting statistic, and show how well certain countries (like Australia) do.

Since nobody else has pointed it out, the results so far [bbc.co.uk] seem to suggest that China is actually going to do much better than this prediction suggests.

The end of the world is comming :o) (1)

pdamoc (771461) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990086)

Abomination: netcraft about the official Olympic site [netcraft.com]
And since we are at it... let's /. the site to see how well does that combination holds. (maybe we can make the news.... again) :o)
www.athens2004.com [athens2004.com]

How many per person? (2, Insightful)

houghi (78078) | more than 10 years ago | (#9990103)

What would be realy interesting is to compare how many medals are won per athlete (or team) that participates. Or per person they send to the games, including docters, coaches, trainers and what not.

Also nice would be to compare this with the number of sports they participate in. Crossreference this also with e.g. the amount of people who live in a certain country.

e.g.: The Netherlands will get 21 medals. The US will get 70 medals. Does this mean the US sends more people or that the Dutch are better at sports, if you calculate it per captiva?
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