Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Who Won the Beijing Olympics

Now that the dust has settled and the 2008 Olympics have come to a close, who should be declared the winner? Michael Phelps won the individual competition in my book, but lets talk geopolitically. This question of winner here becomes much more difficult.

Clearly however, the contest comes down to the United States and China. First a look at the medal count totals from the Official site of the games (http://results.beijing2008.cn/WRM/ENG/INF/GL/95A/GL0000000.shtml)

United States:
Gold - 36
Silver - 38
Bronze - 36
Total - 110

Gold - 51
Silver - 21
Bronze - 28
Total - 100

Impressive stats by any measure, but what metric should be used to determine the winner. Major news agencies in China think it is all about the number of gold metals. Using That standard China wins with 51. Major news agency in the United States have been using a total medal count. By that Standard the United States wins with 110.

Either measure does not seem accurate. Surely it is not just about gold metals, but to say that a bronze is of equal value to a gold does not seem right. That has led some to give each metal a value and do a bit of calculating; three points for gold, two for silver, and one for bronze.

Now for the math:
United States - (36x3)+(38x2)+(36x1) -> 108+76+36 -> 220
China - (51x3)+(21x2)+(28x1) -> 153+42+28 -> 223
Using this metric China wins by a very slim margin.

This metric does not seem right either. I think that a gold is more impressive than both a silver and bronze combined. Hence the values I use are five points for gold, three for silver, and one for bronze.

This requires another round of math:
United States - (36x5)+(38x3)+(36x1) -> 180+114+36 -> 330
China - (51x5)+(21x3)+(28x1) -> 255+63+28 -> 346
Using this metric China wins by a slightly larger, though still slim, margin.

To total that up, China wins using three of the measurements, while the Unites States wins with just one. The story is not over yet. Controversy regarding the possible use of athletes that were to young to legally compete in female gymnastics threaten four of the medals won by china; two gold and two bronze. Take away those medals and calculating the increase of the Unites States score, the Chinese total is less the the United States in both above calculated metrics. China would still have the most gold metals, but the United States would be judged the winner with the three other measurements.

Ultimately, it is up to you to determine for yourself who the winner is using the measurement you think is right.

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