Olympic Observations

Now that the Olympics are drawing to an end, it’s now time for me to weigh in with my HBD / game perspective.

(1) What is up with India? Only 5 medals. Record-setting (3 in Beijing, 0-2 in all previous Olympics) but that’s still atrocious for a country of 1.2 billion people – even a poor and malnourished one. Michael Phelps alone has won almost as many Gold medals as India has done as a nation for as long as the Olympics existed. Why? Ryan G. will be along to lecture me soon enough on my Indophobia :) , but I think it’s due to a perfect storm of negative HBD, economic and cultural reasons. Indians like East Asians have low testosterone; they are malnourished, and it doesn’t help that many are follow an inferior diet i.e. vegetarianism; the Commonwealth Games showed them to be pretty disorganized which doesn’t bode well for athlete training programs; and finally it appears that many Indians disdain sport and physical activity (their love of cricket actually proves this: Not exactly the most physically intense sport out there). I’m sure as India gets richer they’ll start earning more medals but I doubt they’ll ever do much better than 10th or so.

(2) Russia didn’t perform badly, contrary to popular opinion. Vancouver was a disaster. This wasn’t. As of the time of writing, its total medal count (78) exceeds Beijing 2008 (73) and Atlanta 1996 (63) and isn’t far from Sydney 2000 (89) and 2004 Athens (92). It’s still third overall and given the population and commitment of China, and the advanced training facilities and Black population (let’s be realistic) of America, coming third on total medal counts is entirely respectable. This time it was overtaken by Britain in the gold medals tally, but this reflects an astoundingly good British performance rather than Russian under-achievement.

(3) Speaking of Black populations, an almost unbelievably “provocative” video from the BBC, which claims that the reason the descendants of African slaves do so well is because of natural selection through Atlantic slave trade mortality.

Here I actually disagree, funnily enough. It’s not so much the fact that they are slave descendants as they are West African blacks who on average have narrower hips giving them a more efficient stride, naturally lower body fat, more muscles in general, more fast-twitch muscle fibers in particular which are especially useful for explosive strength, more testosterone etc than other races.

Why it is Western hemisphere blacks who end up winning the medals might be due to the extra edge given by their slave heritage. However, there is no good evidence for that that I’m aware of. More likely it is simply because West African states are too malnourished, and too impoverished and disorganized to fund athlete elite training programs.

(4) The American flag can’t take the heat when put next to the Belorussian and Russian flags. :)

(5) Turkish columnist gets parboiled for pointing out the obvious i.e. that women who excel in man sports (e.g. weight-lifting) will necessarily lose their feminine physical traits.

(6) Looks like China is going to come second this time on both Gold medals and total medals. Still, nothing to worry about. Beijing was probably an outlier at the time as home teams always have an advantage (see Britain in 2012). The secular trend is still upwards. If China were also to import 10 million West Africans (for sprinting) and 10 million Kenyans (for marathon) its lead will become permanently unassailable. ;)

(7) From the Economist’s Daily Charts blog.

Some very interesting data there.

(8) And another fascinating chart on male / female differences.

Quite a few female champs today would have beaten their male equivalents from a century or even half a century or so ago. Environment (advances in training and dieting regimens, shoe surfaces, etc, etc) does make a big difference.

(8) Move the Olympics back to Greece. As a rule they’re financially ruinous for the host country. But if they’re permanently ever held in one place – i.e., the place of their historic origin – an ecosystem can develop around them which will make them fiscally sustainable and even a net boon for Greece. It will also eliminate a lot of the bureaucracy/corruption inherent in choosing a new city every four years.

Comments

  1. Dear Anatoly,

    I agree with all of this. In my opinion Russia did quite well and is gradually recovering its position in international sport after the post Soviet crash. The British result is the anomaly, which can be partly explained by the fact that the Olympics are happening on British home ground. I would add that the previous Labour government made a very big investment in sport. It shows that when such an investment is made (as it probably will now be in Russia) the results over time can be dramatic. I doubt this level of investment will be sustained in Britain for much longer.

    In other words I think for Britain this result is as good as it gets whilst Russia is on its way up with plenty of scope to improve in sports such as gymnastics where it was traditionally strong. If current trends continue then I expect Russia to be third in the medals tables behind the US and China before long and probably at the next Games.

    I agree with the comments you make about the US team. Without the contribution of black Americans the US would slip right down. Actually given the US’s size and wealth it would then start to look unimpressive. I don’t think China has peaked or come anywhere close to doing so. Germany by contrast has been disappointing. Given Germany’s traditional strength in sport I wonder why that should be?

    • Actually perhaps I was premature when I said I agreed with ALL of this. We are still recovering in Greece from the 2004 binge. Obviously having the Games in Greece permanently would be different. Still I would have to be persuaded…..

    • (1) Yes, the British example (and China, North Korea, GDR, etc) does show that investment is very important to getting good results. I’m of the opinion that while its useful both for pride and as a way to propagandize sports in general, elite sport investments should not be at the expense of sporting facilities for the masses. One common complaint I’ve been hearing of late from Russians is that swimming pools, etc. are far less affordable now than they were in the USSR. I don’t know to what extent that is true. While I’m sure they were highly accessible then they were also surely of low quality.

      (2) Gymnastics performance AFAIK depends heavily on just extremely rigorous training from very young ages. Here I think it would be hard to compete with China with its 9x higher population and great dedication.

      (3) Germany is an interesting case. That said its still very good at the Winter Olympics. It came second to Canada in Vancouver. To be honest I’m far more interested in the Winter version than the Summer one in general. The Winter one is considered less prestigious so the advantage is that there is much less national dick-measuring competitions, less doping, etc. The sports there are also far more aesthetically pleasing on average IMO.

  2. ironrailsironweights says:

    It’s the conventional wisdom today that Britain has been even more severely infested by political correctness than the United States. Perhaps not. It would be many orders of magnitude beyond unthinkable for a U.S. television network to have made that BBC documentary on black domination of sprinting. No American sports commentator or writer would dare even acknowledge this domination.

  3. A tiny country like Hungary did exceptionally well. 17 medals in total, of which 8 were gold, not to mention in a wide variety of fields. Talk about quality…

    Hungary = biggest winner of the 2012 Olympics; India = biggest loser.

    • Jennifer Hor says:

      Hungary did do extremely well compared to Australia which sent three (?) times the number of athletes as Hungary did. Congratulations to all Hungarians reading AK’s blog here!

      Hungary used to have a world-class women’s gymnastics team. What happened to it after Henrietta Onodi retired???

      For one of the world’s fattest nations, Australia did not do too badly either. Sitting down helped Australia a lot as we won half our gold medals that way (canoeing and sailing). If our competitors had been allowed to watch football and crack open cans of beer and eat too many crisps and nibbles, they would have won more gold but unfortunately marathon football-watching isn’t an Olympic sport.

      • If our competitors had been allowed to watch football and crack open cans of beer and eat too many crisps and nibbles, they would have won more gold but unfortunately marathon football-watching isn’t an Olympic sport.

        They would have taken silver or bronze; the gold would have gone to America, even though football isn’t all that popular with Americans. Such is their determination in sitting down, cracking open beer cans and eating their fare share crisps and nibbles.

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