The Olympics kick-off tonight.
So, with Freeview HD ready and waiting and 18 fewer hours per day to be writing blog posts things might be a little quieter around here over the next couple of weeks. :-)
As you drag the slider along it’s interesting to see how pre-WWII the Olympics were dominated by Europe and the USA, then along comes the Soviet Union and East Germany (apart from 1984 in LA, when NZ won a record 8 gold medals), then become much more global in more recent times the medals start to be spread around Asia, South America and Africa (with the exception of 1976, when African countries boycotted, and John Walker won the 1500m).
And, as Lance notes, in the last couple of Olympics the main talking point has been the rise and rise of Australia. From winning no golds at all in Montreal to 4th place on the medal table in both Sydney and Athens with 16 and 17 gold respectively. As Richie might say: “fine effort that”.
At the Athens games they even passed us on a per capita basis, where we normally do pretty well.
These tables (from the Google cache as the original site is no longer) show the medal rankings from the Athens games by population and by GDP:
By Population (Australia 3rd with 0.85 gold medals per million people; NZ 7th with 0.74 per million)
By GDP (NZ: 21st; Australia: 25th)
The big winner is Cuba, who is 3rd by both measures.
So, what about predictions for this time around…
The Australian Olympic Committee is predicting they will win 44 medals, 20 of them gold. So to match that on a per capita basis we’d need to win 9 medals including 4 golds.
(using population numbers from the CIA World Factbook)
Here are the 11 candidates who have a current top-3 world ranking heading into the games: Valerie Vili in athletics; Sarah Walker and Catherine Cheatley in cycling; Mahe Drysdale, the men’s coxless four and coxless pair in rowing; Tom Ashley, Barbara Kendall and Andrew Murdoch in sailing; and Bevan Docherty and Samantha Warriner in triathlon.
In addition to those there are another 28 kiwi athletes who are ranked in the top eight in their events, and keep in mind Hamish Carter was well outside the rankings heading into the triathlon in Athens, and we all know how that ended up.
I think they can do it!
Oi, Oi, Oi!
Bonus (for stats geeks): based on this guys analysis “the number of medals won is roughly proportional to the cube root of the population.” So there you go!