Friday, October 15, 2010

500m Straw Clutch

Australia did tremendously well at the recently closed Commonwealth Games in Delhi. They blitzed the field with gold after gold, showing that it's not the size of a country's population that matters, but how you use it. Congratulations to them and their athletes. They're a relatively small country that have consistently punched well above their weight. It's hard to fault their performance. Hard, but not impossible. What sort of Kiwi would I be if I didn't waste my time trying to find a way to bring the Aussie's down a peg?

For this I have burrowed through the data to uncover that vital piece of information that I can skew in such a way that if you squint it almost makes Australia look less-than brilliant, and hopefully move NZ up a couple of spots in the process.

In the interest of conciseness, and because making tables in HTML is incredibly tedious, I'm only going to list the top 5 countries (and NZ and Australia if they aren't up there).

Firstly, the standard medals table, ranked by gold medals (and then total if there's a tie):

RankingCountryGold Medals
11New Zealand6

The only thing you can say about that is that Australia didn't get as many golds as in previous years; it's their lowest gold medal haul since Auckland in 1990. That's about as small a consolation as they come. That's gold though. There's a common line of thought that says that a bigger population means that you should win more gold medals. Another way of looking at it is that a bigger population gives you a higher chance of winning each gold medal because you have more people to choose from. So Australia had a 5 times higher chance of winning each gold than NZ. Wouldn't that be reflected in the total medal count then?

RankingCountryTotal Medals
5New Zealand36

Well, I guess we moved up a few spots. Unfortunately, Australia didn't budge. It looks like I have to manipulate the data a little bit more to get what I want. Luckily I'm a scientist, so that's pretty much my job.
For my next trick I'll look at number of gold medals per capita. Surely a big old country like Australia will falter when faced with the likes of small-and-mighty NZ. I'll use millions of people per gold medal so the numbers don't get out of hand. The smaller the better in this case.

RankingCountryPopulation per Gold Medal
2Cayman Islands0.06
9New Zealand0.73

Curses! I suppose that knocked them off the top spot. I think I can do better than that though, and maybe even get New Zealand a little higher. Modern sports is all about money, right? Then GDP (in millions of USD$) per gold medal should weasel out the over-spenders.

RankingCountryGDP per Gold Medal
3Cayman Islands$1549
16New Zealand$20860

Ha! Take that Australia! What's the matter? Earn too much money do we? So that's the first task, taking Australia out of the top 5. Sadly, NZ has also been pushed down, all the way to number 16. For us to overtake Australia I'm going to need to get things nice and convoluted on the home straight. Here goes. GDP in USD$ per head of population per gold medal. This can't possibly fail...

RankingCountryGDP per Capita per Gold Medal
5South Africa$476.7
19New Zealand$4747.6

Damn it! Lousy Aussie overachievers. Australia actually did slightly better and NZ did slightly worse. That was a waste of time (unlike the rest of these tables...). Good on India though, sort of. They must have blown a lot of lunch money on training their athletes for these games.

I suppose whatever way you look at it Australia did pretty well. Not even the fact that they have the second highest GDP per capita of all the nations competing at the Commonwealth Games (Isle of Man has the highest) can account for the number of gold medals they are capable of pulling in, they just got too many. I would have loved to look at medals per athlete competing per country, but Wikipedia let me down there. Not even Google could find me the information I needed.

I've tried all sorts of combinations and I just can't get NZ ahead of Australia. I guess the only hope for all my Oz-bound friends, when faced with the inevitable gloating Aussie, is to point out that they earn 40 times as much per person than India and could only manage twice as many golds. If they start pointing things out, like the fact that we earn 30 times as much as India and only managed 1/6th as many gold medals, then just keep spouting figures in terms of foreign currencies, arbitrary multiplications and decimal points until they get bored and start hitting you. Anything is better than that bloody gloating.

No comments:

Post a Comment