Monday, August 18, 2008

Financial rewards of Olympians

What sort of financial reimbursement will Americans get for participating in the Olympics? I wanted to see how well they do by winning all those medals. Michael Phelps was already earning over $5 million a year from endorsements since the Games in Athens. He wants swimming to grow and for people to get involved. He stresses the psychic rewards. Now he will be making much more, endorsements are predicted in the $30-50 million a year range. Sounds like this is a country or maybe a world that has gone money-crazy about sports.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/08/18/phelps.endorsements/index.html

For many countries, simply attending the ceremonies is important as a political point for the international photographic airtime. Said a coach from the Maldives:

"The priority is to attend ceremonies," he said. "We are an unqualified country. The most important thing is to hoist the flag."

Some countries do not insist all athletes attend the opening ceremony. Lot of coaches attend the opening ceremony march. The Games are an intense, demanding two weeks long.

An article in the Wall Street Journal points out that it is not the Olympic Committee keeping the best statistics of the Olympics. Rather, there are hobbyists around the globe who keep the best historical records of scores. Surprising, but true. It surely makes sense to correlate Olympic results with population numbers, yet it is rarely done. Sounds to me a very useful hobby.

One such group makes www.sports-reference.com. They are the "Oly Madmen" (love that name!) led by Bill Mallon, a surgeon, and they make lists of wins in various sports.

Another good reference is at http://simon.forsyth.net/olympics.html. "A statistical juggle even the Madmen don't attempt is a medal count by wealth and population. At least one Web site tries it.... (by)Simon Forsyth, a researcher in Brisbane, Australia"

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121883421021145439.html?mod=2_1338_topbox

While this is a useful hobby, I am wondering if someone wants to track the correlation of pre-Games financial support with Olympic medals. It is surely very strong, if Michael Phelps is any indication. Are there many strongly qualified, extraordinarily well financed hopefuls who don't win as well as expected, and disappoint like horses that don't win races? Sounds like the "winner takes it all" at the Olympics. But surely anyone qualifying wins by my definition; you are not a loser just by participating. This is a hotbed competitive environment where losing by 1/100 of a second is officially a loss.

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