Monday, August 11, 2008
India, Pakistan and Johnson-Ali Olympics Success Model
“Why are the top 10 medaling nations top 10?” Professor Daniel Johnson asks. “It’s not that athletic prowess is completely independent from wealth and population. These nations have more resources at their disposal.” Daniel Johnson, a college professor and an economist in Denver, Colorado has developed a mathematical model for predicting each nation's Olympics success.
Professor Johnson's model weighs factors such as wealth and population rather than rely on the detailed knowledge of individual athletes' abilities. The model, which was concocted by Johnson and former student assistant Ayfer Ali in 1999 at Harvard, also considers a country’s climate and the advantages of hosting.
Though the professor predicts the US will still lead the overall medals table with 103 medals this year, China will be aided by a booming economy, its host advantage and polluted air to take home the most gold medals—44 to be exact. Based on recent Olympics history, the professor has had a pretty good success rate at about 95%. Here's the link to Johnson and Ali's Beijing 2008 Olympics medals forecast. The duo predict Pakistan will win 12 medals, including three golds, at Beijing, just above Israel with 10 medals, including 9 golds.
He said the U.S. would win 103 medals, 35 of them gold at Athens in 2004. Real numbers: 103 and 37. But when it came to forecasting China's output in Greece, the economic indicators were way off. Johnson and Ali said China would win 39 overall and 15 gold. They took 63 and 32, respectively.
The Johnson-Ali model has not done well for nations other than the top 10. For example, Pakistan, which Johnson suggested would win seven medals, including three golds, won no medals at all at Athens. In fact, Pakistan has won three golds,three silvers and four bronze medals, a total of 10 medals in the entire history of its participation in Olympics since 1948. The last Olympic medal Pakistan won was a bronze in 1992. India has won eight golds,four silvers and five bronze medals, a total of 17 medals in its entire Olympics history which began in 1927 while Sri Lanka has won two medals in its history at the Olympics, one silver and one bronze. The rest of the South Asian nations have never won any medals at the Olympics.
Since the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, there has been a steady increase in the number of countries that have won at least one medal. The number grew from 47 nations in 1984 to 52 in 1988, 64 in 1992, 79 in 1996 and 80 in 2000. For the first time in two decades, however, the number failed to rise in the Athens Games of 2004. Only 74 countries claimed at least one medal in those Olympics. Majority of the nations of the world, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar (Burma) and Nepal in South Asia, have never won any medals in the history of the Olympics. Many countries lack the quality athletes who can qualify to participate in the Olympics. For example, no Bangladeshi athlete has ever qualified for the Olympics. In order to broaden the participation in the Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) provides some wild cards to those countries whose athletes have failed to get any qualification. Afghan Nisar Bahawe is already a proven world class black belt and he has qualified for Beijing on his own merit rather than through a wild-card system to participate in Tae Kwon Do competition. Bangladesh applied for 6 wild cards for the Beijing Olympics. The IOC only gave the country five, while inviting one female shooter, Sharmin, to watch the Games as a spectator. Here is the link to an interactive map by New York Times showing Olympics medal winnings by countries.
Johnson's formula has come under criticism for several reasons. The critics ask why Cuba and Ukraine aren't included in his predictions, or why India, with factors similar to China's, isn't high in the medal projections. Johnson's response: Cuba's economic reports are too sketchy to trust, Ukraine's political history is too thin and India is too democratic, Johnson says. Critics also say Johnson should consider the culture of a nation, which would explain how a small country such as Australia blows away India.
While Indians were disappointed by the failure of their hockey team to even qualify for Beijing Olympics, India's first-ever individual gold won by Abhinav Bindra in 10m air rifle shooting, has come as welcome news for the people of India. Meanwhile, Pakistani hockey team has made a disappointing start by losing its first match to the lowly British field hockey squad. The epicenter of field hockey seems to have moved from the South Asian sub-continent.
Overall, the two major South Asian nations remain very low in the field of health, fitness, athletics and competitive sports. The only way to fix this situation is to apply greater national focus starting with school children.
As the most gracious hosts, the Chinese put on the best ever show with the opening ceremony of Beijing Olympics 2008. The largest ever gathering of the world's heads of state and the world's best performers and athletes made it a grand party. It was a joy to watch. Eat you heart out, Steven Spielberg. No one missed you at the big Beijing party. Here's a video clip: