Olympic Medals per GDP

I noticed starting last olympics that people started mentioning medal counts per capita along with medal counts, claiming greater accuracy in reporting skill level. It smells like it was rooted in sinophobia, but as there’s not enough evidence supporting that suspicion, that’s letgoable.

What really annoyed me is that the Neil deGrasse Tyson Facebook page, for which I currently hope it wasn’t actually written by Tyson, wrote “What the Olympic Medal count looks like to the mathematically literate:…”

Olympic medals by population in no way mathematically accurately represent skill level, at least when compared to olympic medals by GDP. If you have to take that step, you might as well take this one, because the amount of resources one has access to is definitely a big factor to success.

By the way, if you argue that one person is one person in intrinsic skill, that’s a reasonable claim, but I’d also like to ask you to go tell colleges that underrepresented minorities should not reap the benefits of affirmative action.

In medals per $1000000000000 GDP,

Jamaica: 894
Georgia: 600
Kenya: 339
Ethiopia: 260
Belarus: 219
Cuba: 218
North Korea: 214
Azerbaijan: 193
Ukraine: 145
Hungary: 132
Croatia: 99
Kazakhstan: 88

Iran: 31
Denmark: 29
United Kingdom: 29

South Korea: 28

South Africa: 16
China: 15
Italy: 14
Germany: 13
France: 13
Spain: 12
Canada: 11
Brazil: 8
United States: 7
Japan: 7
Mexico: 7
India: 3

Of course the point of this post is not to say that per GDP is the way olympic medals should be looked at as opposed to many different possible ways, but my point is that there’s probably a reason why simple figures are presented the way they are. If you decide to add in a twist to the data you think is reasonable, you’re probably missing many more reasonable twists. And you can twist on these twists: GDP is not the best indicator of wealth. Along the continuum from the simplest method of representation to the theoretically most precise, one can’t just pick one point in the middle and say that’s the perfect point.


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