Wednesday, 19 September 2012

A different sort of Paralympic medals table

During my stint as a Paralympic Gamesmaker (more on that soon, I promise) I learned that Fiji had only sent one athlete to the games. This apparently random bit of information stuck in my mind (mainly because I do know someone from Fiji!) but a few days into the games I learned that this athlete – a one-legged high-jumper – had achieved a gold medal. 

Amazing. In  my commercial mind, this means that Fiji achieved a 100% success rate in terms of ROI: they invested in one athlete at the Games and came back with one gold. Job done.
This led me to wonder if other countries had done the same. I mean, it was only by chance that I knew that Fiji had one athlete AND that this guy had won gold. Let’s face it: the TV coverage was very GB-centric so stuff like this just seems to have gone by unnoticed. 

So I decided to do a bit of research into the datasets I needed and worked on some simple analysis with these numbers. I defined 'success' as the ratio between number of athletes and gold medals and, with that criteria, my medals table looks like this: 

This medal table looks very different from the one we got used to seeing during the Games (although China still feature quite highly). But in my opinion, it is a better indication of success as it doesn't penalize smaller delegations that had fewer medal opportunities in the first place. 

I then decided to widen my definition of success and include in my calculations ALL medals won, regardless of color. This changes the table to look like this:

China has benefitted from this approach as have some of the larger countries like Germany and the USA which now appear in the top 20. Is this an effective way to measure success? Is it more effective than a simple count of medals? Or should success mean only gold?

In any case and no matter how we look at it, Fiji did indeed achieve what I consider to be the best ROI in the whole of the Paralympic games!

Sources: the number of athletes per NPC come from Wikipedia while the number of medals come from the London 2012 site.

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