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The Impact of One Athlete Pt. 2

2010 Oct 08 10:50   category: World Affairs   author:  
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On Day 4 of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Peter Yukio, of the tiny island nation of Nauru, gave that nation an unbeatable lead in our GDP Adjusted Medals Ranking with his gold medal win in the 77kg men’s weightlifting competition. In fact Nauru’s lead was originally so unassailable that it caused us to rethink the way we adjust medals value by GDP in our ranking. In the revised ranking Nauru is still firmly and probably unbeatably in the lead but they wouldn’t be had that medal been bronze. We’re comfortable with the revised ranking because Nauru is such small nation that even a single gold for them is a remarkable achievement.

In fact it had already become apparent that simply dividing a nation’s medals value by their GDP was giving too much advantage to very small nations in our ranking. The dynamic can be rationalized as follows. Assuming for the moment that GDP per head is the same for all nations then we would not necessarily expect that 10 times the population would result in 10 times the medal haul in a competition like this. Typically a nation can only enter 3 athletes for any event and this is likely to limit the number of people from any given nation who strive to compete at this level no matter how large that nation is. So dividing medals value by anything proportional to population (or GDP) would likely handicap larger nations too much.

The challenge then was to find an alternative adjustment that had a less dramatic effect than merely dividing by GDP. In the end we settled for dividing by a ‘GDP factor’ that is proportional to the square root of GDP. The main justification for this is that it is still relatively straightforward and it also yields a pleasingly competitive ranking based on results so far. It is also defensible on the basis that population/GDP does confer an advantage but in a way that tends to diminish as these factors increase. Anyway, you can judge the revised GDP Adjusted Medals Ranking for yourselves and let us know what you think. We see some very close competition between nations that would otherwise rank far apart in a traditional medals table and that fulfills our orginal objective in establishing the GDP adjusted ranking.

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