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Business - Written by on Monday, August 11, 2008 13:33 - 3 Comments

Don Tapscott
Olympic medals reflect economic clout

It’s still early in the Games, but already one can see Asia — China and South Korea in particular — racking up an impressive number of medals, reflecting their growing economic clout.  Of the top ten medal-winning countries, Asia currently scores 39 medals and the rest of the world 23.  Countries have often used the quest for Olympic medals to showcase their economic or political strength.  The New York Times has a great interactive world map here that relates each country’s size on the map to how many medals the country won during that year’s Games.  The map shows the medal count for all Games starting with Athens in 1896.


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Aug 13, 2008 17:10

I thought this was interesting, here is a paper from a professor at Tuck (via the Freakonomics blog), who has built a quantitative model to predict the number of Olympic medals for each country:

Aug 18, 2008 11:53

Thanks for the link. It’s an interesting paper, and its projections are holding up well. Possibly the biggest surprise is the number of gold medals China has won. As of this morning, China has captured 39 gold medals, almost twice that of the 22 won by the US.

Mike Dover
Aug 21, 2008 11:19

Most of China’s medals can be explained by:

- centralized planning. In a socialist society, the government can choose who plays what sport and have them practice full time from early childhood. Lebron James may have been an athelete in a different sport than hoops if he could win more medals for the country.
- standard deviations. With more than a billion people, you are more likely to get outstanding athletes. Even given the average height of Chinese citizens, there is no shortage of 6’10″ + atheletes for basketball and volleyball, etc.

BTW, if you add up the medals for the former Soviet Union (granted there is some double counting), by my count they have 104 total medals compared to 93 for the United States and 83 for China.

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