We don’t have a TV, so I’ve hardly watched any Olympics. I’m surprised to say that I missed watching them a little. I’ve caught the highlights on the CBC’s website (live streaming still very dodgy on my MacBook), but that’s been it.
So, I have a lousy sense of Canada’s achievements at these games. They’ve won 19 medals, which sounds good, but how about a little context? How does 19 medals today compare to winning 19 medals in, say, 1968? How have the Olympics changed in the past 40 years?
I did some research on Wikipedia, and assembled this spreadsheet. In doing so, I learned some interesting stuff:
- At the 2008 Olympics, Canada ended up ranking 19th in the medal standings. That’s its best performance since 1992, and (ignoring the heavily-boycotted 1984 Games) its second best performance in the last 40 years. The Canadian Olympic Committee had set a goal of a top-16 finish, which seems pretty unrealistic given history and the competition.
- We can also look at the portion of the total medal pot that Canada won. They won 1.98% of these year’s medals.
- I looked at some other factors, like how many medals Canada won per event or attending athlete, but I’m not sure that they’re germane.
I also discovered a couple of general Olympic stats:
- Since 1968, the number of athletes attending the Games has doubled.
- Since 1968, the number of events has increased by 76%, and the total number of events by 82%. I guess we can attribute the greater increase in athletes to new team sports or larger pools of qualifying athletes?
I know, I’m a big nerd. But I think we can celebrate Canada’s medal haul as a very good result. They’ve done better, but 2008 counts as above average.
To those who would accuse me of focusing too much on the medal count, I’d point you to this Globe and Mail article. In it, two-time gold medal winner and executive director of the Road to Excellence Alex Baumann talks about how much their emphasis is on winning, and funding those sports where Canadian athletes are likely to medal.