3 points for gold, 2 points for silver, 1 point for bronze

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The Olympics is now over and which place your country has ended up in depends on the ranking system used. The usual way to judge a country's place is to simply add up the total number of medals as seen here.

Most of the time this is a fairly accurate assessment, but using the total number of medals a country can gain a fairly high place simply by getting a large number of bronzes. Russia (3 gold, 5 silver, 7 bronze) is above Korea (6 gold, 6 silver, 2 bronze) and Switzerland (6 gold, 3 bronze) is under France (2 gold, 3 silver, 6 bronze) when we all know that a country would rather walk out with six gold medals than six bronze but a slightly higher total.

The other way of judging rank is also inaccurate. Here's a chart with countries judged by the number of gold medals, with other medals relegated to the status of tie-breakers. My country Canada gets on top for its 14 gold medals, but it won a full 11 medals less than the US which only gets third place because it doesn't have enough gold. And on that chart poor Finland gets beaten by Latvia (total of two medals, both silver) because it got one silver and six bronze medals. Great Britain (one single gold medal and nothing else, WTF?) also gets ranked above Japan with three silver and two bronze.

So let's use a point system. 3 points for gold, 2 points for silver, one point for bronze. In case of a tie we let the highest-ranking medal decide the rank. Here's how the ranking works when this happens. Red indicates that a country's ranking suffers against the new system, and green the opposite. The depth of the colour indicates the difference. Notice that countries with medals heavily stacked to one side or the other (lots of gold or lots of bronze, but little else) show the largest difference when the new system is brought in. Also, rank #25 isn't included here because counting by total number of medals only gives 24 places as a many countries are tied.

CountryGoldSilverBronzePointsRankRank by totalRank by gold
United States9151370113
Germany1013763222
Canada147561331
Norway98649444
Korea66232575
Austria46630659
Russia357267611
China52423887
Sweden52423887
Switzerland6032110116
Netherlands41317111210
France2361612812
Poland13211131315
Czech Republic20410141314
Italy1138151516
Japan0328161520
Australia2107171813
Belarus1116181817
Slovakia1116181817
Finland0146201524
Croatia0215211821
Slovenia0215211821
Latvia0204232323
Great Britain1003242419
Estonia0102252425
Kazakhstan0102252425

And there we have it, problem solved. Finland is no longer robbed of four places for not having won gold, nor is it given five places simply for racking up a lot of medals, and the same is true to a lesser extent with Russia and Japan. Switzerland is now not rewarded unduly for having a lot of golds, nor is it unfairly penalized by simply counting up the total and making its first-place finishes virtually meaningless.

Now that the post is done, let's check to see if anyone has proposed this system before, since though I came up with it myself I'm sure it isn't the first time anyone has thought of it from 1896 until now.

Checking...yes, looks like it was proposed in 2004 (careful, that's a pdf) by the Australian Geography Teachers Association. Looks like now it's supported by both the AGTA, and Page F30.

3 comments:

Adrian Boeing said...

Actually, this is the way we calculate totals in Australia for all olympic events for as long as I can remember. (We refer to total #gold as the 'american' method, and generally acknowledge it as being stupid - you should move to Australia)

Anonymous said...

I've always thought it to be common sense that this "weighted" method allows for the most holistically accurate picture. And yes, I'm American. -_-

Adrian Boeing said...

Actually, this is the way we calculate totals in Australia for all olympic events for as long as I can remember. (We refer to total #gold as the 'american' method, and generally acknowledge it as being stupid - you should move to Australia)

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