The Olympics: Where communism wins []

July 30, 2012

by Joshua E. Keating


The Olympic motto, "Citius, Altius, Fortius" — faster, higher, stronger — might inspire athletes training for the Games, but for a nation looking for Olympic glory, a more useful dictum might be "Maior, Ditiores, Communistarum": bigger, richer, communist.

While upsets are always possible in any individual event, the factors that make a nation an Olympic powerhouse are pretty clear, and it’s surprisingly easy to predict which countries will come out on top.

Shortly before the 2000 Sydney Olympics, two economic papers appeared within days of each other looking at the determinants of gold-medal success. Remarkably, both came to virtually the same conclusion about what makes a nation an Olympic champion. Ever since, the lead authors of each paper, Andrew Bernard of Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business and Daniel Johnson of Colorado College, have been using these factors to make predictions before each Olympics, sometimes with uncanny accuracy…

..One…factor identified by both papers is a bit more surprising: communism. Throughout the Cold War, when medal counts became a matter of not just national but ideological pride, communist governments like the Soviet Union and East Germany were able to allocate government resources much more efficiently to build sporting powerhouses. They consistently outperformed predictions based on size and GDP alone.

This wasn’t true just for the Eastern Bloc. Cuba, for instance, has won more than twice as many Summer Olympics medals as Brazil, despite having only a fraction of its wealth and population…

Full article link here


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