Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Olympics Thus Far

Beijing Olympics 2008 logoThus far, Great Britain (as an aside, if anyone knows why we're referred to as "Great Britain" instead of the "United Kingdom", even though the GB team includes Northern Ireland, I'd be interested to know?) are doing pretty well in the 2008 Olympics, as are the USA (our "home from home"). Today we finished in third place on the medals table, with the USA in second place and China taking the lead. Doing well in these games is all the more important this time around for Brits because it's a warm-up for when Britain hosts the games in 2012. It'd be nice if in 2012 we could have the added bonus of getting a fair number of medals too.

However, even with Team GB doing well, I still find myself asking the same questions that I often ask. How does the number of medals won relate to the population sizes or wealth of the participating countries? I also find myself wondering about how the types of events that a country is likely to compete in and/or do well in are affected by its wealth and/or cultural influences.

It seems that I'm not the only one to have wondered at the first question. A light-hearted Los Angeles Times article drops the USA's position from second to 40th and China to 73rd by taking into account the population size. For more analysis, you could start by taking a look at these articles:

Harder, better, faster, stronger
Economic Briefing Paper: Modelling Olympic Performance
Bill Mitchell's Alternative Olympic Games Medal Tally - 2008


Mark Lydon said...

There is sometimes confusion over the correct use of 'United Kingdom' and 'Great Britain', and what constitutes 'The British Isles'.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the UK or United Kingdom for short) is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The term 'Great Britain' (GB or just Britain) refers to the area covered by England, Scotland and Wales. (However, the terms are sometimes interchangable - for example, in the Olympics the UK is represented by the 'Great Britain Olympic Team'.)

One way to look at this is that the UK is the part of the British Isles for which Parliament makes laws. (But note: there is no such thing as 'British Law'; the courts in Northern Ireland and Scotland have the right to interpret laws in their own way.) However, the UK is also responsible, under international law, for some other areas, including the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. The Queen is sovereign over these areas, but they are not part of the UK.

Despite the fact that Parliament has devolved power to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, the UK is not a federation, but a unitary state.

The British Isles is an area divided between two sovereign states, namely the UK and the Republic of Ireland. It includes the Isle of Man. Use of this term sometimes includes the Channel Islands, but this is not consistent.

Viola said...

Thanks Mark.

My point is simply that the term "Team GB" excludes everyone except England, Scotland and Wales, whereas a term such as "Team UK" at least includes Northern Ireland. Even this is not ideal, however, because it is still not all-inclusive.

I quite like Wonko's World's idea to call it "Team BNRPCDLBI". :-)

"I do have to wonder ... why the UK’s Olympic body insists on calling its team 'Great Britain'.

Great Britain is a geographical term referring to the big island that England shares with Scotland and Wales but the GB Olympic team includes Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, none of which are on Great Britain.

As an Olympic team name, it’s pretty rubbish as it leaves out nearly 2% of the population. That’s hardly representative of the Olympics values. Perhaps it’ll be renamed for the 2012 Olympics to Team British Nations, Regions, Provinces and Crown Dependencies located in the British Isles. Team BNRPCDLBI doesn’t roll off the tongue like Team GB, I’ll grant you, but at least it doesn’t leave anybody out."

Anonymous said...

Hi Vi, it's because "UK" is used by Ukraine. Q knows this because in the Army we now have to remove the UK labels from our NBC suits and use GBR instead. Just one of those things... Anyway, blame the French, as they run the IOC!