Thursday, 28 August 2008

Jamaica Takes the Biscuit

O-RingsApparently, the 2008 Beijing games are over. The only reason I know is that the the Today paper is reporting on a Chinese psychologist who believes the home country's sports fans are suffering "feelings of loss, worrying about work and generally feeling sluggish", also "feeling lost and prone to whining".

I hear the whining alright. "Xinhua did not provide any figures for the extent of the problem." Oh Okay, a make it up as you go along story that allows them to invent "Olympic Syndrome".

All of which is a shame as actually the mathematics of the games is more interesting. Freakonomics calculates that Jamaica tops the medal table based on its 2.2 gold medals per million inhabitants. Second place on this table is Bahrain with Rashid Ramzi’s victory in the 1,500-meter race giving them both their first-ever gold medal and a per capita rate of 1.4 gold medals per million. Which puts Singapore's one silver for 4.5m people into perspective.

Singapore is now struggling with the aftermath of their medal win. There's a local scandal about how one of the coaches was summarily sacked by the Singapore Table Tennis Association (the President is my MP). The association claims the decision was made before the games, but others claim it was because one of the team was left to play a match un-coached.

The dash to cash continues with the Singapore Sailing Association saying it needs $10m to $12m to prepare for the next games while others point out that if table tennis suits the Asian physique, then why not put tables in every void deck. Perhaps they need some mathematicians to calculate their odds against how many tables are already in China right now. You'd be better off putting the money into a prize fund to attract top-ranked players willing to take Singaporean nationality.

So there you have it. Mass depression, statistics and money. And I thought the Olympics was about individual achievement.


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