Monday, February 24, 2014

Sochi 2014 - Medals by Population

Sometime in the last couple of weeks, I saw someone on Twitter (I don't remember who!) suggest that there is a better way to do the medal count board.  If you've watched the Olympics at all, you've seen the board where all the medals are totaled up.  Russia 'won' the Olympics with 33 medals.  Our U.S. came in second with 28.  In the past I've seen people try to weight the totals by giving different values to gold, silver and bronze.  This makes some obvious sense as a gold medal is more sought after than silver or bronze.  As far as I can tell, there is no consensus way to weigh them though and I'm not creating a system here. 
Anyway, the idea was to sort the medals by population of the country.  Therefore smaller countries would get more credit per medal.  This makes some sense.  The larger the country, the easier it should be to find an elite individual.  So I decided to crunch some numbers. 
Note: I'm going to figure medals per million people.  My population numbers are from Wikipedia and I'm simply hoping that no one cared enough to mess with this info.  Also, I rounded to the nearest million so there may be some messiness with the numbers.  Also, I'm not doing the entire medal count.  Just the top eleven, with a few extras that are special.
Top eleven:

11. China 150.11 medals per million people - They have 1.35 billion people and won nine medals.  This is unfair to China.  Their population is simply so huge that would always have trouble by this metric.  If they had won a medal in each event, they would have come away with 98 medals and brought their number down to 13.79.
10. United States 11.35 - This represents 28 medals for 318 million people.  I've heard people say that this was a disappointing games for the United States and maybe that's so.  They won 28 medals out of 294 possible.  In Vancouver 2010, they won 37 out of 258 so this was a step down.  (I'm not all that disappointed.)
9. France 4.47 - The French picked up 15 medals to go with their 67 million people.  When I first looked at this calculation, about a week ago, the French were not doing so well.  In fact, I had them mentally pegged as the worst performers of the countries that actually care about winter sports.  They must have done much better in the second week.
8. Russia 4.36 - Even though they won the most medals, their population of 144 million dilutes the count.  Russia also blatantly imported athletes to inflate their medal count, so I don't feel badly for them. 
7. Germany 4.26 - Here we have 19 medals spread through 81 million people.  Before I started this, I didn't really understand some of the relative population differences between European countries.  Did you know that Germany had 81 million people?
6. Canada 1.4 - I'm going to go out on a limb and say that these were great games for the Canadians.  They brought home 25 medals for their 35 million countrymen.  This includes both gold medals for hockey.  Not too shabby.
5. Switzerland .74 - If you know a million Swiss people, then you about one and a third medal winners.  (Or something like that.)  This is what happens when a country of 8 million win 11 medals.  This is the opposite situation of China. 
4. Netherlands .67 - The Netherlands only have 16 million people.  They won 24 medals.  23 of those medals came from speed skating.  That's 23 out of a possible 36 medals.  That's an insane number. 
3. Sweden .67 - This is 15 medals for 10 million people.  Eleven of those medals were for cross country skiing.  Not quite as impressive as the Dutch, but still very good.
2. Austria .47 - There are 8 million Austrians.  Those 8 million brought home 17 medals.  More than half (9) of these were for Alpine skiing.  I guess they know their way down a mountain in Austria.
1. Norway .19 - This is an outstanding number.  Norway has five million people and 26 new Olympic medals.  I'd say that Norway has a very strong claim to have 'won' the 2014 Winter Olympics. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Olympic Winter Total Events

Here is a list of how many medal events each winter Olympics has had.  If I had more skill, I'd present this as a graph. 

2014 98
2010 86
2006 84
2002 78
1998 68
1994 61
1992 57
1988 46
1984 39
1980 38
1976 37
1972 35
1968 35
1964 34
1960 28
1956 25
1952 22
1948 22
1936 17
1932 14
1928 14
1924 16

There are now more than twice as many medal events as there were in 1988.  That's a mere 26 years ago.  At this rate, the 2042 games (set to be hosted by Dubai) will have more than 200.  The mind boggles.  Is that a crazy thing to project?  Those 26 years represent 7 different Olympics.  If you count back 7 Olympics from 1988, you get 1960, which had 28 events, or a little more than half of 1988.  And only five Olympics prior there were exactly half of that, with 14 events.  So it could happen.
I'm a little disappointed at how little creativity has gone into this explosion of events.  Broadly, the only discipline that has been added since then is snowboarding.  Everything else is just the balancing of women with men or a rejiggering of distance.  I would gladly cut down, say cross country skiing from 12 events to six, if it meant that we could get something new to watch and cheer for.  (And I like cross country skiing!)  Get with it, IOC!

Olympics Without Cable

We're about a week into the Olympics, nearly half way through and I thought I'd talk about what I've been able to watch.  You may remember that we got rid of cable about a year ago.  That means that I've only been able to watch what is on NBC proper.  (I've also worked through the primetime viewing period four days this week so that has limited me.  Add in the kids lack of patience for dad's turn with the TV too.)  The only consistent time block I've had is at 11p.
That means I've been able to watch:
  • Some skiing.  Moguls, which I don't care for.  Downhill, which is pretty good TV.  Slaloms, which aren't that great TV.  
  • Cross country skiing.  This doesn't seem like it should work on TV but it does.  Maybe in part because I can see my kids competing in it some time in the future.
  • Biathlon.  More cross country skiing, but this time with the added tension of sharpshooting.  I'll admit, I don't get all of the rules here, especially with the penalties, but it's entrancing television.
  • Slope style skiing.  I'm not a fan of X-Games style stuff.  This doesn't really do it for me either.  I spent some time yesterday really trying to figure out which jumps looked better than the others and I couldn't do it.  
  • Figure skating.  I've had it on, but haven't watched much of it.  I mostly try to figure out the music and look up when I hear the 'ooooh' from the crowd. 
  • Speed skating.  I love the speed skating.  I love the long form, with pairs.  (I root for the Dutch.)  And I especially love the short track with all of the graceful cat and mouse.  Can't get enough of this!
  • Skeleton.   The one Olympic sport I would love to try.  Much moreso than luge or bobsled.
What haven't I seen?  Not one minute of curling.  I've enjoyed it in the past.  I'm amazed that every four years we get this big groundswell of support for people watching it and then it disappears.  Why doesn't some network put this on every Saturday night?  (I wonder the same thing with women's volleyball.)  Anyway, it must be on one of the other NBC channels because I sure can't find it.
I also haven't seen any hockey.  I'm not a huge fan so this isn't a big deal.  But . . . well, if it was on in the morning, I'd probably have it on my TV.  This morning I followed the US vs Russia game on Twitter and it was highly enjoyable.

There are 98 medal events in this winter Olympics.  In 1980 there were 38.  

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Getting Ready for Sochi Olympics 2014

The Olympics are just about beginning and there is some excitement in our house.  Well, I'm excited and I plan on dragging the kids in too.  Hopefully the FP Gal will be ok.  The Opening Ceremonies will be broadcast on Friday, starting at 730p CST, but actual events will start earlier than that.  I thought I'd get some things together in one place for myself and anyone else that is curious.

  • Sochi is ten hours ahead of us here in the Midwest.  Which means almost everything you see will be tape delayed.  I don't know how that will work in the age of Twitter and other social platforms.  I don't remember spoilers being a huge problem during the London games though.
  • Here is a link to NBC's viewing guide.  You can also watch some events online or through your phone.  Possibly your refrigerator or toaster, depending on what model you have.
  • I've been meaning to write about this but keep forgetting.  Do you know who does the camera work at the Olympics?  A group run by the IOCC themselves called the Olympic Broadcasting Service.  They provide a feed and the various countries simply put their own commentating with it.  
  • I'm very curious what the Opening Ceremonies will be like.  I don't really have a feel with what post-Soviet Russia will want to display.  I'm hoping for some Russian men's chorus because they do some wonderful work.  Does Russia have pop stars like the west does?  I honestly don't know.  (In my defense, I don't really know which pop stars we have here either.)
  • There are no particular athletes that I'm pumped to cheer for.  In fact, the only American one that I know by name is Shawn White and I don't really care that much about snow-boarding.  I really want to watch the short track speed skating, the bob-sledding, skeleton and some curling.  Beyond that, I'll take what they give me.
Hope everyone stays safe!

Monday, February 03, 2014

Choosing Whom to Root For

There's a very interesting article here on picking teams to cheer for.  The author is moving to NYC and casually said that he might end up a Yankees fan.  (I looked past the senseless political bashing.)  This has led him to ask questions about choosing teams.  It leads him to some interesting places.
I am not saying that it is terribly difficult to start supporting a team. It’s just that it demands more than an impartial approval of the team’s merits. You need to sign up to the mission. You need to add a new commitment to the other projects that define your life. I’m not sure that there any rules about how we acquire our projects. Many of them come with growing up. Later in life we lose old ones and find new ones. It depends on what interests and attracts us, on where and how we live, on who we hang out with. 
 There's a lot of truth to this.  In a very real way, Viking and Packer fans are simply different.  The history of the two teams have created two different cultures.  Packer fans are optimistic, while Viking fans are ready for disappointment.  When Aaron Rodgers got injured this season, Packer fans became almost sick at their new level of QB play.  Meanwhile, Viking fans have become bitterly resigned to poor QB play.  This is a very specific example, but you can see it long term.  Talk to fans from either team next summer and you'll see what I mean.  
Does this mean that by raising my kids as Viking fans, I'll be raising them to have some fear of disappointment?  That's probably the way to bet.  Meanwhile if I lived about 100 miles further east, they'd be in Packer land and maybe come to expect winning as some kind of birthright.  
Not that I regret my choices.  As a fan, I sometimes believe that there is nobility in suffering.  Or let me put it this way: the 2005 White Sox meant more to me than any individual Yankee team did to their fans.  That's not a bad thing.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Superb Owl

(For the record, I've got Relia saying 'superb owl' now.  Gosh, kids are fun!)

I've gone back and forth on who to pick for the big game.  Heidi is a big Seahawks fan and I'd like for her to be happy so I'll probably cheer that way.  On the other hand, Peyton Manning is one of my favorite non-Viking players so it would be nice to see him win another ring.  In other words, I'll probably be happy with either team winning.
So who do I think will win?  Denver has a historically great offense.  Seattle has a great defense.  Seattle's offense is better than Denver's defense.  The Seahawks have a big edge on special teams.  Given all of that, you'd think that Seattle would be a bit of a favorite.
But it's so hard to bet against Peyton Manning.  He's almost certainly the best player on the field and that's tough to ignore.  Which explains why the Broncos are actually favored by a few points. 
I guess I'm picking the Seahawks, but this is the type of game that should horrify actual gamblers.