Jamaica Wins the Olympics

August 22, 2008 § 1 Comment

Things on my mind that I hope to explore more soon:

• Driving around Indianapolis this summer, you see a lot of highway construction going on. Those highways are funded by the gas tax, which is $0.47 per gallon (a few cents of this goes to mass transit as well). If drivers begin driving less to save fuel, keep switching from trucks and SUVs that get 15 miles per gallon to cars that get 25 mpg, and others switch to hybrids and electric/plug-in cars, where will the government make up the lost revenue to keep our highways in good shape? Will they increase the taxes on the electric utilities?

• This August in Indiana has been unseasonably cool, which brings out those “So much for global warming” snickerings. People are funny. Even President Bush admits that the climate is changing and that human activity is a factor in it. This is somewhere on par with the tobacco companies admitting that smoking is addictive and causes cancer. While there actually are subtleties in the argument for why people deny climate change, what does it hurt — really — what does it hurt to try to avoid such a potentially calamitous fate? God forbid we take care of the planet a little better.

• When I look at the medal count for the Olympics and see that the United States is leading the overall medal count but losing the gold medal battle to China, does that mean we are “winning” or “losing” the Olympics? Shouldn’t this be weighted somehow? So, let’s give this a value and see how we do. Let’s say that a Gold Medal is worth 4, Silver is worth 2, and Bronze is worth 1. (You know a gold is valued at least twice as much as a silver and four times as much as a bronze, right? Good. Glad we agree.)

Setting up a quick Excel spreadsheet, the values make the order switch around a little. Of course, China and the US are way up top, basically doubling third place Russia’s total. However, China takes over the top spot from the United States due to their gold medal count from their insane dominance of diving, men’s gymnastics, table tennis, and surprisingly, weightlifting. The United States comes in a close second.

But, what happens when we add population to the mix? After all, the Olympics seems to favor those with large populations. For the sake of time, I’ll only look at the Top 20 Total Weighted medal winners. I’ve divided their population by Total Weighted medals to establish how many people it took to create the “medal value”. This will determine the most efficient Olympic country.

And if that’s the case, the country is… Jamaica. They only needed 87,548 people per each point of their weighted medal total (2,714,000 people divided by 31 total weighted medal points). Second is Australia at 232,547 and third is Belarus at 302,813. China drops way down, needing 5,367,028 for every weighted medal, while the United States drops way down as well, needing 1,320,026 for every weighted medal.

Take a bow, Jamaica, you “won” the Olympics.

(And in case you’re wondering, they win in the non-weighted medal category as well. More analysis like this next week after the Olympics is over… )

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