With all of the hand wringing about the Own the Podium program, and was the money worth it I thought I might apply some basic statistics to the problem. Testing weather or not a technique works is one of the basic things we do in Computer Science; if you make a change to a piece of software you test to see if the change improves it. Otherwise it’s not worth doing.
Methodology: each class of sport will be considered a sample: the OTP program has sports classified into 14 categories, but Wikipedia has them in grouped slightly differently. Where possible, and where the sample size is large enough I’ve separated Men’s and Women’s events just to see if there is a difference in bang for the buck. A Did not Finish (DNF) or Did Not Start (DNS) or Disqualified (DSQ ) is considered no measurement of performance, and is discarded.
I imported all of the placements for each athlete, and averaged the placements per sport. I also calculated the standard deviations, which as you can imagine were quite large. The following chart compares the results per sport between the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics:
As you can see, there are some improvements and some “disprovements”: biathlon, bobsleigh and cross country skiing show the largest improvements overall, even though we won no medals in those sports.
Now, I understand that the analysis is flawed in many ways, not the least of which is that the standard deviation is greater than the difference in results for every event; this means that the analysis is not statistically significant, but then again neither is the number of gold medals:
However, as a simple comparison of improvement over one season for a team of people it does make a point: improvement is not about being first. Ultimately the name for the OTP program is probably the cause of much of the concern (and pressure) over weather the athletes were winning enough metal. I think the blame for the name can be put squarely into the ultra-competitive nature of corporations, and the idea that first is the only place worth mentioning.
By the way, did anyone notice how well Eric Guay
did at the alpine events? 5th in both the Super-G
and the Downhill
, and possible the most deserving athlete with the least press coverage during the games. 0.33 and 0.34 seconds from the Gold Medal time.
Now I’m not a fan of the “everyone gets a medal” stuff that’s happening in schools these days, but 0.34 seconds is pretty damn close to Gold, and in the words of my mother “Someone should give him a medal”.