The friendly Australia- New Zealand rivalry is alive and well with claims being made by our Kiwi cousins that New Zealand is winning the Olympics.
Well, it depends how you count it. Here’s how the rankings look at the moment (Sunday morning in Australia – check the links for the latest updated stats)
1st – United States (26), followed by China (25) and Great Britain (14).
New Zealand is 13th and Australia is 19th.
Same top three. 1st – United States (54 medals), followed by China (53) and Great Britain (29).
Australia is 8th and New Zealand is 12th.
But what if we take into account population? We’ve been fascinated by the new site “Medalspercapita.com“, by Craig Nevill-Manning, which examines exactly this. Craig, a New Zealander, developed an earlier version of the site to annoy Australian colleagues.
This morning his hard work of recrunching the data has really paid off.
How do the countries rate in terms of gold medals per capita?
1st – New Zealand. Australia way down in 24th. United States 18th, China 29th – Great Britain again 11th.
But hang on. This ignores all the other medals. (And Australia has won 12 silver medals, so this should really help us). So what happens if we look at total medals per capita?
1st – New Zealand, with 7 medals from its population of 4,432,620, for a ratio of one medal per 633,231 people, narrowly edging out Slovenia, with 3 medals from its population of 2,057,540. Australia is in 4th place. The United States is 34th, China is 47th and Great Britain is 11th.
Well that’s not really fair, either, is it. A bronze is not as good as a silver (and more than half of New Zealand’s tally is bronze). So what if we count all the medals, but weight gold and silver more highly to form a weighted average?
This time Australia leaps to 4th but New Zealand is still 1st. (population per weighted medal 277,038).
Ok. let’s change the weightings. The weighted average gives 4 points to gold, 2 to silver, 1 to bronze, significantly benefitting New Zealand with its 3 gold. What if we only weight gold medals as 3?
Hmmm… Nope. (Craig doesn’t do this but I just tried it in Excel).
Maybe we should not use whole population, given that Olympic athletes can’t be children and, except in a very few events, are not older adults?
Or should it really be about winning medals? What about the percentage of athletes exceeding their Personal Best? Or the impact on sports participation in the countries?
It can’t really be that I’m trying to find a synthesis method to give the answer that I’m looking for, can it? I’m sure that Australia and New Zealand’s friendly rivalry doesn’t stoop to using dirty tactics?