Thursday, 16 August 2012

The politics of London2012 Olympic medal counts

I was curious about the London2012 Olympic medal count - why rank them by gold medals as BBC did, rather than by total medals as perhaps statistically more significant? It kept TeamGB in #3,  ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympic gold medal rank of 4 (rather than ahead of the Russians I'm told). In any case the top two - US and China - stood unchallenged, and every country performed well in what some called the best games ever... even if I hear that at every four years!

Both US and China seek to win our hearts an minds in the sports arena as well as the politcal one. As current and possibly future political and economical top powers, they eclipse Russia and Great Britain, who vied for and held that post the last and the previous century respectively. But do they eclipse other nations when counting medals not in raw numbers - however you rank them - but relative to their population or more accurately to their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita?

The Guardian suggests just that. And my previous posts related how trends in various religions and UNESCO World Heritage sites can be smoothed if not reversed depending on adjustments to population from United Nations and/or GDP per capita from World Bank. Likewise I posted the London2012 medal counts and merged them with GDP per capita for 2010, into a medals table by population (popM) and by GDPperCapita (GPC). 

I tweeted colour-coded tables to show how rankings are affected - the chosen ranking in a smooth colour grade, contrasting other rankings by their interrupted colour grade - for these London2012 medal counts  by gold or by total, or by popM and GPC. Tables and pictures aside - you got it! - maps are a better way to display the distribution. Yet:
  • maps convey geographic extent of countries involved:
    • hence the importance to normalise by population, GDP or area
    • and to use colour schemes to highlight statistical differences 
  • Google Fusion Tables are the easiest if not the only way to: 
    • manipulate spreadsheets on-line (merge, multiply etc.) 
    • and post them directly by country in simple maps

London2012 Olympic medal count, raw


London2012 Olympic medal count by population (per thousand)


London2012 Olympic medal count by GDPperCapita (*1000)