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Olympic Medal Prediction Model 357

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the bring-on-the-beach-volleyball dept.
bettiwettiwoo writes "Slate reports that PricewaterhouseCooper claims to have devised a model predicting the final medal tally for nations competing in the Olympic Games. GDP is of particular importance in bringing home the bacon, closely followed by population size and and past performance. Other factors can also affect the outcome: hosting the games usually gives a medal boost. With the possible exception of China, the titan nations of the games (US, Russia, China and Germany) are predicted to see a successive drop in their total medal tally in the future (and compared to the Sydney Games, the future starts now). So if you were wondering why the Iraqi soccer team seems on its way to the quarter finals, why Greece takes gold in synchronized diving, or why Michael Phelps has to eat Ian Thorpe's bubbles, don't worry: it's only evolution, baby, and it's all perfectly predictable!"
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Olympic Medal Prediction Model

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  • Olympics (Score:5, Funny)

    by lachlan76 (770870) on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @08:43AM (#9989820)
    The Olympics are about skill, and how many medals a country gets would depend on how skilled the athletes are.

    Skill != Evolution
    • Re:Olympics (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DavidpFitz (136265)
      The Olympics are about skill, and how many medals a country gets would depend on how skilled the athletes are.
      Nothing to do with the amount of money their country has to pump into sports, the facilities they have grown up with, who has the best doping doctors who get past detection. Nothing like that, of course. It's all about the individual's skill. Hmm.

      A gold medal may require skill, but it needs a whole lot more besides (unfortunately).

      • You're both right, of course. Skills are what it's about, one hundred percent. All that other stuff is just there so the athlete can hone his (or her) skills.
      • Re:Olympics (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Kombat (93720) <kombat@kombat.org> on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @09:29AM (#9990222) Homepage
        who has the best doping doctors who get past detection.

        Why does everyone insist on viewing doping as a "black-and-white" issue?

        The human body is a very complex machine. The chemical reactions that take place in side are very complicated and sensitive. Athletes carefully monitor their nutrition, and supplement their bodies with well-timed servings of synthetic protein, creatine, and other compounds and hormones. Where do you draw the line? Should it be illegal to take protein shakes? What if a competitor eats a huge number of chicken breasts? Or drinks more than the allowable portions of milk?

        My point in all this is that there are many things that affect an athlete's ability to perform. You can't just say, "that guy was doping, so he's a cheat. Everyone else passed the doping tests, so they're all honest, supreme athletes." It's not that simple. They're all taking complex coctails of nutrients and supplements. They all take vitamins, energy bars, protein shakes, creatine, testosterone, lactic-acid inhibitors, and who-knows-what else. If one of them accidentally takes just a few too many grams of one of his supplements, he/she could set off the doping alarm, and fail the test. That doesn't mean they deliberately cheated, unless you consider all the other athletes to be "cheating" too, when they follow their artificial diets.

        NO ONE competes "naturally" anymore, in the sense that they just eat plain old food, sleep when they feel like it, and then compete. They all have carefully-monitored sleep cycles and diets. They're treated like machines, like high-performance engines. They're groomed to compete, sometimes even to the degree that they're supposed to peak on the day of their competition (that is, if you asked them to re-run their competition the next day, their time wouldn't be anywhere near the time they were able to turn in the day before).

        So what's the answer? Ban all supplements? All protein powders? Energy bars? Low-fat foods? Forbid athletes from taking more than 8 hours of sleep a night? Should we try to make sure everyone is on equal footing? Or do we allow them to do everything they can to hone their bodies into high-performance machines that'll break records (and thus, attract ratings, sponsors, and ad revenue)?

        Who's to say that a mild steroid is cheating, but a rigorous diet of protein shakes, Myoplex, ephedrine, Xenadrine, selenium, and whatever else is OK?
        • Re:Olympics (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MindStalker (22827)
          Well I think the athletes futures are important too. Even mild steroids taken frequently can have major impacts upon ones health. But the athletes would be pushed very hard into taking them if they were legal. Not that high doeses of Xenadrine is very safe either, but obvious there are limits. So while I agree the black and white of "cheating" isn't as clear, there has to be limits set, if simply to avoid destroying these athletes in the name of competition.
        • Re:Olympics (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @12:24PM (#9992253)
          You're confusing supplements with performance enhancing "drugs" or other controlled substances. Virtually everything that you can buy from a (legitimate) heath food shop, gym or online are "supplements" which are exactly that, they supplement real food and are basically nothing more than powdered/liquid food in a filtered/concentrated form. Either that or they are mild stimulants, such as caffeine or ephedra. There are strict guidelines about the permitted levels of stimulants in competition for most high level sports these days. However, nowhere will you ever see anything pertaining to levels of basic macronutriencs or essential vitamins and minerals.

          Supplements don't do anything more than eating similar macronutrient proportions of real food would do, they are simply more convenient for atheletes on very controlled diets, particularly when it comes to consuming large amounts of protein without the saturated fats.

          Virtually all quality protein powder's are extracted from whey (milk), and in some cases soy, they are not synthetic. Things like Creatine, L-Glutamine, Omega3 EFA etc are all present in regular foods such as red meat, wheat and flaxseeds respectively. Consuming them in concentrated form is a matter of convenience, and in no way constitutes "cheating". It's no different from juicing an orange or drinking reduced fat milk, you are removing undesired elements from an otherwise natural food source.

          Using food supplement products, observing a controlled diet and using precisely monitored training techniques doesn't mean an athlete isn't competing "naturally", nore are they using performance enhancing substances. They are maximising their performance, but it is not being artificially enhanced by a controlled substance.

          If any of these supplement products on the market actually exhibited true drug like effects, which are almost always accompanied with drug like side effects, they would be pulled off the shelves by the FDA and be required to be sold by prescription only, as has happened in the past with such products as Triax. Such results would also attact the attention of the respective sporting bodies and the substance would become listed as a banned substance as a result.

          The true performance enhancing drugs, such as anabolic steroids, are those that are not generally present in regular food products, and produce an elevated anabolic (muscle buidling) or altered metabolic state that boosts the subjects performance and development. This can be due to increased levels of insulin, testosterone, human growth hormone or altered levels of IGF-I and MGF in an atheletes muscle tissue, or any number of other "benefits".

          The point is that the performance enhancing "drugs" result in significant chemical and behavoural changes uninitiated by the body, and usually similarly significant side effects if taken for long enough or in large enough doses. More importantly they are generally controlled substances that must be sold through specific channels and not something that you will find on the shelves at your local supermarket. Where as supplements are mostly macronutrients, vitamins and minerals extracted from natural food in a more convenient form.

          A previous poster indicated that the greater the "wealth", the more advanced the potential for doping is likely to be, which is exactly right. For example, a compound such as Mechano Growth Factor (MGF) is extremely difficult and expensive to manufacture, in fact very few people in the world know how to do it.

          However the substance itself is the holy grail of performance enhancing drugs as it is the body's trigger to muscle tissue growth, is currently virtually impossible to detect because it's naturally occuring in the body, and localised to muscle tissue not the circulatory system. A country unscrupulous enough to invest the necessary research and development into the production of such a compound would have a competitive "doping" advantage over other countries using currently available substances and masking agents.
      • Nothing to do with the amount of money their country has to pump into sports, the facilities they have grown up with, who has the best doping doctors who get past detection.

        Your sarcasm is well placed. The UK is a good example of a nation with a reasonable population (over 60 million - ranking 21st in total), a high GNP (4th highest in the world), but which severely lacks in Olympic performance and medal tally. Why? We just don't have the faculties.

        And, rather uncoincidentally, the news over the past cou
      • Skill is learned and obviously benefits from money, facilities, training as well as an individuals natural talent.
    • Re:Olympics (Score:3, Interesting)

      by BlueCup (753410)
      Well, the way this article is written, it's not so much skill that they're focusing on, though it's not really evolution either... it seems more like sociology, and the "evolution" of civilizations... So, evolution works, but not so much the biological aspects of it. Skill (and, to some extent, yes biological evolution, and sometimes drugs =)) is the deciding factor for a single person gaining a gold medal, but this isn't about what specific people are getting the medals, but what amount a country will get
      • Re:Olympics (Score:5, Informative)

        by Lev13than (581686) on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @08:58AM (#9989939) Homepage
        In a similar exercise, a pair of business professors have predicteding the final Olympic medal count [dartmouth.edu] using socio-economic data rather than athletic performance. Andrew Bernard [dartmouth.edu] and Meghan Busse [berkeley.edu] developed their methodology using four factors: population, per capita income, past performance, and a host effect.
        They were 96% accurate in their predictions for the 2000 Games, including correctly guessing 97 total and 37 gold medals for the USA. Also discussed is why some countries, such as Australia, surpass expectations while others, particularly Canada and Japan, underperform relative to countries with similar populations/national income.
        This year's predicted winners? The USA (93), Russia (83) and China (57). The full paper was published in the Feb 2004 Review of Economics and Statistics [mit.edu] - summary here [dartmouth.edu].
    • That's very true. I don't think it is talking about evolution in the darwinian sense though. I think it's refering to the olympics evolving.
    • On the contrary, increasing skill is a part of evolution. Evolution is the constant change - usually for the better - in response to environmental pressures. An increased level of skill in a task frequently performed is an example of such behaviour. Although true evolution works on a much grander scale it is not true to say there is no link.
    • Re:Olympics (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Keitopsis (766128)
      I agree that skill and evolution are not the same, but we are also looking at is the "specialist" problem.

      The so-called "first-world" nations can have a specialty programs to develop the skills of their atheletes, not to mention be able to identify potential atheletes through their education systems. Smaller nations cannot devote the manpower or economy to such programs. It is interesting to note that there is a lag function involved using prior achievement to show the effectiveness of the national athleti
    • Re:Olympics (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Planesdragon (210349)
      The Olympics are about skill

      No, they're not. If they were, tactical assault, "ultimate fighting", and compettive woodworking would be olympic sports.

      The Olympics are, and always have beeen, about "performance." And not in general, but performance in a specific test.
    • No, the Olympics are about athletics, which have NOTHING to do with Slashdot.

      These are the bastards that picked on us in high school!!

      Anyhow, this dude has way too much time on his hands if he thinks making a Medal Predicting Model was a good idea, and actually did it.
  • Vital step missing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gowen (141411)
    The variable they seem to have omitted is Propensity of country's sporting bodies to turn blind eye to positive drugs tests."

    Thats the primary explaination for the success of the Eastern Europeans in the 60s and 70s, and US Athletics since then.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The major doping moving from eastern europe to the US since the late 70's? God, come on. Who's star atheletes are in trouble right now? And I think we all remember how those doped up kids from the US beat the Russian hockey team.

      Doping by atheletes is a world wide problem and it takes place in every country. The US is in no way more guilty of it than any other western European country, that's for sure.

      And this gets +5 Insightful. Just shows how you post anything anti-US on slashdot gets you +5.
      • by gowen (141411)

        Who's star atheletes are in trouble right now?

        Well, last I checked, it was Tim Montgomery (THG, via BALCO), Marion Jones (ditto), Torri Edwards (Nikeathon), Kevin Toth, John McEwen, Melissa Price, Regina Edwards, Kelli White. Throw in a previous positive tests from Carl Lewis, that was swept under the carpet. Need I go on? I could.

        Fortunately, with USADA, this looks like it might change.

        See this [yahoo.com] or this [bbc.co.uk] for examples.

        PS : Hockey is not governed by US Athletics, which is, unsurprisingly, concened with

        • by strictfoo (805322) <strictfoo-signupNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @09:28AM (#9990213) Journal
          And the same thing could be done for almost any country.
          Many of those are accusations, and while some are probably true, we can do the same thing for almost any country. Let's start a list, shall we?

          England [foxsports.com]
          England again [cnn.com] (the world champ 100m sprinter... no!)
          Germany [dailytimes.com.pk]
          Ireland [scotsman.com]
          Russia [paralympic.org]
          Turkey! [usolympicteam.com]

          How multicultural! Those took me about 5 minutes to find.

          Have a good day
    • Additionally, there's also the local government's willingess to fund the teams. Here in the USA, the USOC doesn't get direct government funding, but they get a special law that makes the Olympic rings trademark stronger than the usual trademark.
    • Well, part of that would be covered under 'past number of medals gained' as well as the wealth of the particular nation, considering that desire is not enough. A champion has to be able to avoid detection, which means good technology.

      These things are far easier to quantify than 'desire.'
  • Woah (Score:5, Funny)

    by Xpilot (117961) on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @08:44AM (#9989832) Homepage
    What's with all the links to half-naked men? Dammit, Slashdot has gone all metrosexual these days.

  • Relevence ??? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @08:45AM (#9989837)
    How about we forgot about this silly talley and watch the outcome as it unfolds...

  • Mandelbrot (Score:3, Interesting)

    by m00nun1t (588082) on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @08:45AM (#9989839) Homepage
    I'm sure Mandelbrot will claim to predict this [slashdot.org] sooner or later.
    • Actually, I will lay claim to having predicted this, right here. [everything2.com]

      ...and they called me crazy! Well, who's a high paid consultant at PwC now? Hahahahahahaaa!
  • and it's all perfectly predictable!

    While that's one thing Vegas will no longer be taking bets for...

  • But.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by rf0 (159958) <rghf@fsck.me.uk> on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @08:46AM (#9989848) Homepage
    ..it still doesn't tell us who to bet on in the Womens beach volleyball. Damn now I'm going to have to watch every match to find out

    Rus
  • Lies... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by NETHED (258016)
    There are lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.

    This might sound good and all, but comon, this just reinforces common sense.

    Ok, if country A has lots of money, then they can train thier athletes.
    If country A has had good athletes before, it stands that they will have good athelets in the future.

    The question I ask, did this predict Thorpeo's upset of the American swimmer? I think not
    • Re:Lies... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @09:03AM (#9989984)
      Thorpedo's victory was an upset?

      WTF?

      Thorpey held the WR, had 9 of the fastest times ever, had not been nbeaten in the distance for 4 years.... add to that Phelps had never gone close to any of Thorpe's times.

      Phelps lowered his PB and got third - which, when you look at his performances over the distance is in fact a bloody good result personally for him.

      The fact is, it would have been a pretty major upset for Thorpe to lose to Phelps. It was always goignt o be a race between Hoogie and Thorpe, NOT Thorpe and Phelps - it was only moron commentators who were talkign up the clash that begged to differ.

      Past performances always said Thorpe verses Hoogie and guess what - that's exactly how it turned out.

      Admittedly, the race did live up to hype as an event. It was a damn good one.
      • 200 free (Score:4, Insightful)

        by siskbc (598067) on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @11:00AM (#9991308) Homepage
        The fact is, it would have been a pretty major upset for Thorpe to lose to Phelps. It was always goignt o be a race between Hoogie and Thorpe, NOT Thorpe and Phelps - it was only moron commentators who were talkign up the clash that begged to differ.

        You're absolutely right - the commentators needed to talk up Phelps' attempt for 7 golds - Particularly here in America - which obviously is now over.

        That said, Phelps did make it a decent race, as his time was closer to Thorpe's than it was to the 4th place finisher. As you mention, he did set a personal best in his attempt, and there's no shame in that. He also had a real chance at silver (vdH was closer to Phelps than Thorpe).

        But ultimately, this was a one-man race from the beginning. And there are some of us Americans whose memories include Sydney and what Thorpe did there. He's not an all around swimmer, but he kills in the free.

    • Re:Lies... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mike_mgo (589966)
      I haven't followed swimming that closely, but was Phelps really the favorite in that race. I thought van den Hoogenband from the Netherlands (won gold in Sydney) and Thorpe from Australia (world record holder) were both favored over him in that race.

      Obviously these statistical models aren't trying to pick winners of individual events, but for this race I think the result was pretty much what people expected, despite what Sports Illustrated or Time Magazine might have put on their covers while trying to sel

    • You make it sound like aussie was a longshot to win, he cleaned up last olympics so I don't see how anyone could possibly be suprised he would be successful again.
  • The entire population of Luxembourg gets a gold medal in 100 years(namely because they will be the only people left on the planet)
  • Other factors can also affect the outcome: hosting the games usually gives a medal boost.

    I imagine that's due at least in part to the fact that the host country traditionally makes an attempt to field a team in every event, or at least as many as possible.

    1. Compete in more events
    2. ???
    3. Medal profit!

  • by grunt107 (739510) on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @08:52AM (#9989893)
    For the newer countries entering the competitions, they get better with better facilities and coaching. The US gymnastics got better with the addition of Bella K. The Chinese basketball gets US coaching. International Basketball players get NBA experience and are learning how to trounce the US 'Dream?' team.

    Evolution can only be used in this context to explain the improvement of training principles.

    Biological evolution would just predict athletes would just get more 'athletier'.
    • by Life2Short (593815) on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @09:29AM (#9990225)
      "learning how to trounce the US 'Dream Team,'" Not exactly hi-tech, that. My 7th grade basketball coach taught us about the zone defense way back in 1976. Man was that guy ahead of his time. Snicker. Here's another sure-fire strategy that will work against current American NBA stars: force them to shoot free-throws. And the networks wonder why NBA television ratings are sagging...
    • I thought we would have an entire /. discussion about the olympics without anybody mentionning the dream team. Obligatoury Fawlty towers quote: "Don't mention the war!!"
  • Iraqi Soccer (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BlueTooth (102363)
    I assumed that the reason Iraq was doing well had to do with the fact that they don't face torture if the return home in defeat. Policy like that has tended to drive the big stars away over the past years.
  • They say in any given event anything can happen. Thats why they play the games.

    Models may be able to approximate overall medal performance but its a little disingenuous because its up to each of the athletes to perform in his/her event.

    If the models worked too well gambling on sports would stop.
  • The current table (Score:4, Informative)

    by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @08:56AM (#9989925) Homepage
    Here is a more or less up to date table [yahoo.com] of the medals so far.

    Ukraine is not doing too badly, thank you very much. Not for the third poorest country in Europe anyway.

  • by hayden (9724) on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @08:58AM (#9989941)
    It's all a cunning plan by Australia to breed the perfect swimmer. It's working well too. Nobody seems to have noticed the size 27 feet. We're going to try to get away with hands the size of hub caps at the next olympics.
    • Nobody seems to have noticed the size 27 feet.

      Nobody there seems to have noticed the Japanese guy kicking illegally off the wall yesterday, even though I spotted it instantly at home. Given how bad the officiating has been (softball and gymnastics have both been absolutely terrible), someone could probably show up with fins on. I don't get why the officiating at super-high-profile events (Olympics, World Cup) continues to be so consistently lousy.

      That said, while I normally root for swimmers in inverse pro

  • by Dj (224) on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @09:01AM (#9989965) Homepage
    When you take into account the size and prosperity of the nations competing, and measure it against their actual performance...

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/sydney/story/0,7369,37 66 44,00.html

    The winner is Cuba....

  • by REBloomfield (550182) on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @09:02AM (#9989967)
    "You're forgetting what the Olympics are all about: giving out medals of beautiful gold, so-so silver and shameful bronze."
  • by tabdelgawad (590061) on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @09:08AM (#9990015) Homepage
    Mods, bear with me if this seems OT. A history buff friend of mine tells me that there are two main theories of historical development. One is the 'great man theory', where the course of history is determined by great (as in influential, not necessarily nice) individuals. The other is a view that history is inexorably driven by economic and social conditions that lead to inevitable outcomes (think Asimov's 'psychohistory'). Clearly, we're no where close to being able to test these theories empirically.

    It strikes me that creating this model for olympic medal winners could provide an excellent 'lab expermient' to test this outstanding question in the philosophy of history. In many ways, international sports resemble international relations (rivalry, preparation, 'war', great (wo)men, winners, losers, etc.). If models can predict medal outcomes with acceptable accuracy, it could provide evidence against the 'great man theory' of history, and imply that a version of 'psychohistory' might be possible in the future!
  • I don't believe this is the same group, here is another model for prediction of medal counts.

    http://mba.tuck.dartmouth.edu/pages/faculty/andr ew .bernard/olympicmedals.htm

    This page contains more information than the news piece in the Slashdot writeup, you can actually see the Math/Stats they used to construct the model. Last year, this group predicted the US's medal count and gold medal count exactly on.
  • That's pretty cool for their soccer team, considering they couldnt play any pre-Olympic exhibition matches and that the first goal they scored during these Olympics was in the wrong net. (They still won that game 4-2 over Portugal [cnn.com]).
  • Wealthy countries with a larger pool of potential athletes, who have been consistently successful in recent history, and have a government who sponsors athletics, will win more medals.

    For my next trick, I shall predict what date Christmas will be on - using only the last 400 years of the Gregorian Calendar, minus the bits where they fsked up.

    And no smart asses talking about Orthodox Christmas.

    In other news, PWC open the worlds largest betting office...
  • by pubjames (468013) on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @09:14AM (#9990075)
    I think the statistic of medals by country is boring - of course bigger countries are likely to get more medals.

    I think medals per capita of population is a much more interesting statistic, and show how well certain countries (like Australia) do.

    Since nobody else has pointed it out, the results so far [bbc.co.uk] seem to suggest that China is actually going to do much better than this prediction suggests.
  • by houghi (78078) on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @09:17AM (#9990103)
    What would be realy interesting is to compare how many medals are won per athlete (or team) that participates. Or per person they send to the games, including docters, coaches, trainers and what not.

    Also nice would be to compare this with the number of sports they participate in. Crossreference this also with e.g. the amount of people who live in a certain country.

    e.g.: The Netherlands will get 21 medals. The US will get 70 medals. Does this mean the US sends more people or that the Dutch are better at sports, if you calculate it per captiva?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @09:32AM (#9990257)
    I understand that American media makes a big deal about the total number of medals, because the US has earned a lot of medals, but not many golds. Whereas last I checked Australia and China were dominating in terms of GOLD medals. I think this needs to be more clear.
  • by WormholeFiend (674934) on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @09:41AM (#9990346)
    is that the guy in a blue tutu jumped in the pool BEFORE the medal-favourites flopped...

    I bolded the interesting paragraphs.

    http://www.cbc.ca/story/olympics/national/2004/0 8/ 17/Sports/athens-security040817.html?print

    Olympic organizers boost security after Canadian fan leaps into pool
    Last Updated Tue, 17 Aug 2004 09:16:11 EDT
    CBC SPORTS ONLINE - Olympics organizers have increased security at all sports venues after an unidentified Canadian spectator plunged into a swimming pool during a diving competition.

    The man, bare-chested and sporting a blue tutu, scampered onto the pool deck and climbed to an adjoining diving board during the men's synchronized three-metre springboard event on Monday.

    He jumped into the pool after about a minute atop his perch and was immediately apprehended by security officials at the Olympic Aquatic Centre.

    The man, who was not identified by police, was arrested and questioned by a prosecutor.

    Although the spectator appeared to have harmless intentions, Olympic officials took the breach seriously.

    Organizers have spent an unprecedented amount on Olympic security and the incident exposed a hole in the supposed impenetrable safety ring at venues.

    "We are going to put security guys around the field of play," Marton Simitsek, an Athens 2004 executive, told the Associated Press on Tuesday.

    Olympic organizers said the man was trying to send a love message to his wife by getting on TV.

    However, the message painted on his chest appeared to be the website address for an online gaming website.

    The fan disruption turned the competition on its head.

    The top-ranked Chinese duo Kenan Wang and Bo Peng appeared headed toward certain victory before the intrusion. However, after the incident, one of the Chinese divers landed on his back on his final dive and the team received zeros across the board.

    Russian Dmitry Sautin then knocked himself on the board and American brothers Justin and Tony Dumais worked themselves out of a medal position with a missed landing.


    Unheralded Greeks Nikolaos Siranidis and Thomas Bimis won the gold. It was the host country's first gold of the Games.

    with files from The Associated Press

  • Ian versus Michael (Score:3, Interesting)

    by theolein (316044) on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @10:10AM (#9990676) Journal
    I know a lot of Americans are disappointed that Team USA(TM) is not doing its usual thing of clearing up most of the medals at the olympic games, as has happened in most of the olympics in past decades, but I fail to see the reason why. The Americans are doing very well nonetheless and will probably move up in medal listings as the games progress, although I suspect that China will be the overall winner this year.

    I think a lot of comments about how boring the olympics are has to do with that dented national pride as well as the fact that Americans are somewhat less sporty than average (pure speculation based on hamburger consumption) although women's beach volleyball certainly has done wonders for viewing quotas ;)

    Another problem is that Americans, IMO, tend to overhype anything they see as a potential winner. The NYTimes had an article last week "Built To Swim" on Michael Phelps, heaping praise onto the young man in a manner similar to the way that MacDonalds visitors heap extra dressing onto their food in no less than four pages. If that wasn't building the man up for a fall then I don't know what was. Michael Phelps is an amazing swimmer, make no mistake, but so are Ian Thorpe and Pieter van den Hoogenband and both have the advantage of experience in coping with olympic nerves.

    I also suspect that Americans, who invested large sums in sport during the cold war in the war of national prestige over the east block, and cruised along in the post cold war years after their former competitors fell apart, are now suffering from a lack of focus and the fact that other emerging nations such as Australia have a better focus in winning at the games.

    But cheer up. If China does emerge as an international competitor to the US, I'm sure that the US will once again knuckle down and get that sweat pouring for some national prestige.
  • Here [dartmouth.edu] is another paper published in the Review of Economics and Statistics, claiming to predict Olympic performance in Athens. The predictive factors are similar but they get very different results, mainly the drop in medals for the top countries is definetely not as large. Model was devised by two B-School professors who started doing it for Sydney 2000 with very good results.
  • by lambadomy (160559) <lambadomy AT diediedie DOT com> on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @02:23PM (#9993575)
    There was a series of articles in ESPN magazine a few months ago talking about the development of sports internationally, and one of the pieces focused on India and their relative lack of advancement or overall skill in most olympic or professional team sports, other than cricket. It talked about various factors, from lack of infrastructure to lack of interest or social norms that emphasized non-physical competition or activities, none of which I'm really qualified to speak on. I was just wondering if there is anyone here from India or familiar with it that could say if they think this idea true or not, that India is not only "behind" atheletically but will likely stay that way despite GDP growth.
  • pet peeve of mine (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Knights who say 'INT (708612) on Tuesday August 17, 2004 @02:44PM (#9993833) Journal
    Statistical estimators being broadcasted without sample variances, t-stats or significance tests.

    I mean, would it KILL them to print a standard coefficient table or equation?

    Disclaimer: Yes, I teach econometrics.

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