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# London Olympics: the alternative medals table

The conventional medal table for the London Olympics shows the USA, China and Great Britain in the top three positions, but what happens if statisticians unpack the table and look at a country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), population, and the size of its Olympic team?

Within hours of the closing ceremony, a team of statisticians at the Royal Statistical Society and London's Imperial College produced an alternative medal table based on these key factors and combined them into one variable. This more objective view explains the number of medals won per country on the basis of its population and GDP per capita. The team employed GDP per capita rather than total GDP, since they had already taken population size into account in this approach. If you do this, a different league table is the outcome.

Team GB actually climbs one place in the rankings to second, and the USA, who won the conventional medal table, fall from the top ten. Russia wins the alternative medal table, but if only gold medals were taken into consideration, the UK would have finished top.

Dizzy heights indeed. In Beijing, the UK came well down the alternative league table, showing that London 2012 was indeed a very special Olympics for Team GB.

The alternative rankings are: 1. Russia  2. UK  3. China  4. Hungary  5. South Korea  6. Ukraine  7. Australia  8. Cuba  9. Jamaica  10. Belarus

Statistical wizards among you are recommended to explore the spreadsheet on which the alternative table is based.
Dick Skellington 16 August 2012

The views expressed in this post, as in all posts on Society Matters, are the views of the author, not The Open University.

Cartoon by Catherine Pain

Tweet The conventional medal table for the London Olympics shows the USA, China and Great Britain in the top three positions, but what happens if statisticians unpack the table and look at a country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), population, and the size of its Olympic team?     Within hours of the closing ceremony, a team of statisticians at the Royal Statistical ...

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Provocative, relevant, current: for the last decade Society Matters magazine has been informing, engaging and annoying social sciences students in equal measure.  Now, its move online has given us the chance to bring its lively mix of analysis and opinion to a wider audience.

Society Matters online started in October 2010 and has, so far, covered a wide range of issues and topics ranging from inequality and the big society to arms sales and foreign policy. All can be seen by scrolling down from the top of the Society Matters front page.

We have also illustrated many of these posts with the work of our two illustrators (see below). Serious analyses have been interspersed with posts on a less weighty issues which show both human folly and innovation.

Society Matters continues to be edited by its original creator, Dick Skellington. Dick, pictured above, was previously a programme manager in the social sciences faculty, walks the talk through an active involvement in the affairs of his home town of Stony Stratford, Bucks, and finds light relief through writing poetry and the occasional stage appearance in local productions.

Since many years at the coalface of journalism have taught us all that sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words Dick is aided and abetted by resident illustrators, Gary Edwards and Catherine Pain – both former OU students.

Catherine has drawn and painted all her life, and when she is not pillorying public figures for Society Matters paints animal portraits, works in stained glass and produces alphabet teaching posters for children. Her work is in several galleries in and around her current home in Cambridgeshire and her publications include an illustrated cookbook sold on behalf of the National Trust, a colouring book for small children, Alphabet for Colouring, and The Lost Children, a story for older children. Her website is at catherinepain.co.uk

Gary has written two best-selling books about his travels all over the world watching Leeds United FC, Paint it White  and Leeds United - The Second Coat. His third title No Glossing Over  will be published by Mainstream in September 2011. He has not missed a Leeds game anywhere in the world since February 1968 and married his wife Lesley at Elland Road.

Specialising in wall murals, Gary also holds diplomas from the London Art College, The Morris College of Journalism, has a Diploma in Freelance Cartooning and Illustration and is a contributing cartoonist for Speakeasy, an English-speaking magazine in Paris. During the 1970's and 1980's he collected  hearses and is a long time member of the Official Flat Earth Society as well as the Clay Pigeon Preservation Society.

Please note: The opinions expressed in Society Matters posts are those of the individual authors, and do not represent the views of The Open University.