Posts Tagged ‘Sochi’

Bjørndalen – and the “sense of Wow”!

February 9, 2014

Ole Einar Bjørndalen40 years old, 6th consecutive Olympic Games, 20 years of competition at the highest level, 12 Olympic medals, 7 Olympic Golds  (so far), all in the biathlon. Wow! On only the second day of the Sochi games and my “sense of Wow” has been well and truly engaged.

I watched the 10km biathlon sprint yesterday at Sochi and Bjørndalen, in spite of missing one target in the shooting, was strong enough in the skiing sections to win. He was not the favorite since his results this season have not been spectacular and he has generally been considered the veteran in the twilight of his competitive career. Wow!

His Olympics career has been both long and spectacular:

Bjoerndalen Olympics medals (2014-02-09) Wikipedia

Bjoerndalen Olympics medals (2014-02-09) Wikipedia

He still has the chance of winning a few more medals.

BBCNorway’s Ole Einar Bjoerndalen equalled the record for most medals won at the Winter Olympics as the 22nd Games got under way in Sochi, Russia. Bjoerndalen, 40, won the biathlon 10km sprint to take his tally to 12 medals, matching compatriot Bjoern Daehlie. 

Bjoerndalen finished ahead of Austria’s Dominik Landertinger and Czech biathlete Jaroslav Soukup to claim the seventh Olympic gold medal of his career.

“This victory has been a four-year job and it has been many years since I won (an individual gold medal), but life is too short to give up,” said Bjoerndalen. “I think this is one of my most important victories.” The Norwegian will get the chance to break Daehlie’s record in the men’s pursuit on Monday, but he played down comparisons between the pair. “It’s difficult to compare us at this time because Bjorn was some years ago and now we have a lot more disciplines,” he said.

The only faint shadow I perceive is that the achievements at Sochi not be later spoilt by revelations about doping. Whether or not Lasse Viren ever indulged in blood doping, some other Finnish athletes of his day did but it was not illegal at the time (1970’s). The Norwegian ski team in the 1990’s have also been accused of dirty tricks. The intense Alpine skiing events have had their share of rumoursMarit Bjoergen also won a gold yesterday in the skiathlon. She takes asthma medicine and has had dispensation to do so when it contained a banned substance (which is no longer banned upto certain quantities). In any event she has also faced accusations from her peers that her asthma inhaler was performance enhancing. I suppose being able to breathe is performance enhancing. But I thought that Pistorius being allowed to use blades to run in the summer Olympics was ridiculous. Why not allow a javelin thrower with a weak arm to use a “spear-thrower” attachment to his arm?

Usain Bolt generates a sense of Wow and there are no indications that he is anything but “clean”. But so did Ben Johnson generate the same sense of Wow when he won. And even Lance Armstrong. More often than not rumours of dirty tricks have – much later – been found to be true and sometimes banned.

I have a feeling that athletic team directors and doctors are continuously looking for legal performance enhancing methods and it takes a little time before any new methods discovered become widely known, spread and are then banned (like blood doping).  For an armchair spectator like me it is “the sense of Wow” which attracts and captures my imagination. I just hope that my  “sense of Wow” – not just at Bjørndalen’s fantastic achievements are not deflated and destroyed by later revelations of dirty tricks – even if they are not illegal for now. 

Is PwC plagiarising Andreff’s Sochi Olympic result predictions?

February 7, 2014

In November last year I posted about this paper which used economic factors to develop a model for Olympics medal results and then used the model to predict medals won at the Sochi Winter Olympics starting today. Today Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) have with great fanfare made their predictions for the winter Olympics. In their press release they make no mention of this earlier paper

W AndreffEconomic development as major determinant of Olympic medal wins: predicting performances of Russian and Chinese teams at Sochi Games, in Int. J. Economic Policy in Emerging Economies, 2013, 6, 314-340.

The PwC predictions are slightly different but remarkably similar to the results published by Andreff. They claim to have looked at the same factors as Andreff did. They make the same prediction of home advantage for Russia as Andreff did. I don’t have access to their full report but their press release makes absolutely no reference to the earlier paper and seeks to take credit for the analysis. If their report makes no acknowledgement of the work by Andreff then it does look very much like plagiarism by PwC. Even if their “econometric” model has been developed independently, it is still a plagiarism of ideas if an acknowledgement of Andreff’s analysis has not been made.

Andreff Result Predictions:

Medal predictions Sochi 2014 - M Andreff

Medal predictions Sochi 2014 – M Andreff

PWC Medal Predictions

PWC sochi predictions

PWC sochi predictions

Press Release via ConsultantNews:

London, 31 Jan 2014As with the Summer Olympics, home advantage could play a key part in how the Winter Olympics medals are shared out next month – with hosts Russia looking set to capture a record haul.

But the hosts – along with close rivals Germany, Canada, Austria and Norway – will have their work cut out to catch the US team. Further down the table, after their London 2012 Olympics success, the GB team may have to settle for just a couple of medals. And unfortunately the cool Jamaican bobsled team don’t even make it into the running. 

Once again, economists at PwC have used their skills to project the likely medal tally – this time for the Olympic Winter Games at Sochi starting on 7 February. Their analysis is based on econometric modelling, testing the historic correlation between a range of socio-economic metrics and historic medal success.

The modelling results show that the size of the economy is significant in determining success, with total GDP appearing as a significant variable. However, a large economy is not sufficient on its own for a strong performance. Climate is an important factor, with snow coverage and the number of ski resorts per head having a significant and positive impact on medal shares.

Larger, developed countries with the right climate dominate the top of the projected medals table; but Austria and Norway demonstrate that a smaller economy is not a barrier to success, with a greater estimated medal haul than countries such as China and France.

William Zimmern, PwC economist, said: “While this is a light-hearted analysis, it makes an important point of how organisations can use economic techniques to help make better business decisions. The purpose of our model is not to forecast medal totals with complete accuracy, but rather to increase the predictive power of medal projections over and above using historic medal results alone.

The model allows us to make better, more confident and more informed forecasts. Businesses can use similar techniques to do the same.”

Home advantage – PwC

We used regression analysis to produce the results in Table 1, employing a Tobit model to estimate medal share for the 28 countries which have won at least one medal in the last three Winter Olympics. The variables used were total GDP, ski resorts per head, level of snow coverage, medal shares in the previous two Winter Olympics, and dummies for countries with a “tradition” of winter sports and for host countries.

I have worked with PwC many times during my career. They are very effective but they are not slow in trying to take credit wherever they can – even if it is undeserved. And their ethics are generally as lacking as is endemic in their industry (audit/consultancy).  A little bit of plagiarism by PwC – and not for the first time – would not be a great surprise.

Putin’s Sochi is “ready” but journalists are missing their basic luxuries!

February 5, 2014

Putin’s winter games open in Sochi on Friday and journalists have started arriving. But Putin is probably a little indignant that they are nowhere near as hardy as he is and expect all manner of luxuries ranging from

View image on Twitter

Twitter image Harry Reekie @CNN

  • one room per person (Putinities can manage with 11/room)
  • curtains
  • toilet paper
  • heating
  • internet
  • elevators that work
  • running water
  • hotel lobbies
  • reception desk
  • water safe to wash in
  • water safe to drink
  • flooring
View image on Twitter

Twitter image @wyshynski

ReutersRussian officials have declared Sochi ready for the Games, on which President Vladimir Putin has staked his and his country’s reputation. But days before they open on Friday, the organizers acknowledge that not all the new hotels are ready, despite the Games’ $50-billion price tag. ……. 

macho putin

Although no athletes are affected, officials from two countries said they were turned away when they arrived at night in Krasnaya Polyana because their hotels were not ready. They too have been temporarily moved elsewhere.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has urged the Russian organizers to sort out the problems quickly and says only about three percent of the newly built accommodation – around 700 rooms – are not ready for guests.

Macho Putin is not impressed by these namby-pamby types. 

Related posts:

Sochi Winter Olympics: Champions of Corruption

Economic model predicts Olympic medals at 2014 Sochi winter games

Sochi Winter Olympics: Champions of Corruption

January 28, 2014

A new site defines the Champions of Corruption at the Sochi Winter Games.

The site asserts:

sochi champions of corruption

Athletes are not the only people who compete in Sochi. Officials and businessmen also took part in the Games and turned them into a source of income. The Anti-Corruption Foundation honored the most distinguished money siphoners in five different sports

Classic Embezzlement, Arkady Rotenberg  

Verbal Freestyle, Vladimir Putin 

Ecological Multi-Sport, Vladimir Yakunin 

Pair Contract, Alexander Tkachyov and Roman Batalov 

Figure Lending, Vladimir Potanin

The site is ostensibly anti-corruption but the objectives are clearly political:

The AustralianAlexei Navalny, an anti-corruption campaigner who ran for mayor of Moscow last September, has used the site to combine data gathered during his own investigations with media accounts and other activists’ reports. According to Mr Navalny’s Encyclopaedia of Spending, the athletes are not the only people who compete: “Officials and businessmen also took part in the Games and turned them into a source of income.”

His site honours five “champions of corruption”, including President Vladimir Putin, who is accused of lying about the cost of the project when he claimed it was $US6.5 billion. Mr Putin has rejected the claims.

Economic model predicts Olympic medals at 2014 Sochi winter games

November 29, 2013

Update! See post of 7th February 2014 about PwC’s predictions.


Two economists believe that the number of medals that will be won by any country at the 2014 Winter Olympic games in Sochi will be determined primarily by GDP. They have developed an economic model, tested it against previous Olympic results from 1964 to 2010 and have found that other factors have only a minor effect. They have used their model to make predictions for the 2014,  XXII Olympic Winter Games at Sochi in Russia!

Medal predictions Sochi 2014 - M Andreff

Medal predictions Sochi 2014 – M Andreff

Economic Prediction of Medal Wins at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Madeleine Andreff and  Wladimir Andreff  (pdf: Andreff Sochi)

There is also a published version of the paper: W Andreff, Economic development as major determinant of Olympic medal wins: predicting performances of Russian and Chinese teams at Sochi Games, in Int. J. Economic Policy in Emerging Economies, 2013, 6, 314-340.

Abstract: Starting from an econometric model successfully used to explain and then predict the distribution of medal wins across nations at the Beijing Summer Olympics, a similar model is elaborated on with some different explanatory variables for estimating the determinants of medals won per nation at Winter Games. A Tobit estimation of the model based on data from 1964 to 2010 shows that GDP per capita, population, the endowment in ski and winter sports resorts, and a host country dummy are significant determinants of medal wins at Winter Olympics. Then the estimated model is used for predicting the sporting outcomes at the 2014 Sochi Games with a focus on Russia and China. The Russian team is expected to perform better than in Vancouver 2010 and to be ranked fourth behind the USA, Germany and Canada while the Chinese team would be ranked ninth, a performance doomed to improve in the future given China’s swift economic development.

In their base study the authors do warn that a pinch of salt would be called for and conclude:

All the above predictions must be taken with a pinch of salt. This is namely due to a number of surprising sporting outcomes. Indeed, there are many unexpected sporting outcomes observed ex post ( i.e. achieved outcomes markedly different from the forecast – even though it happens more with the FIFA World Cup than with Summer Olympics (M. & W. Andreff, 2010). Unexpected or surprising outcomes of a sport game or contest have not really been analysed so far. This happens when opponents in a game (contest) have clearly uneven sporting forces, and the underdog wins the favourite. Elaborating on a metrics to quantify surprising sporting outcomes should be a promising avenue for further research. It will be possible to check after Sochi 2014 whether Winter Olympics are characterised with many or few surprising sport outcomes.
For the time being our recommendation is: do not bet that Russia will win 24 medals at Sochi Winter Olympics! But, if Russia makes it with more than 27 medals you would be allowed to conclude that she performed very well, better than expected with an economic model, and that this must be due to exceptional efforts of Russian athletes and coaches before and during Sochi Games. If Russia would win less than 21 medals, you could join Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev in complaining that the Russian winter sports squad should really have done better – or that it was unexpectedly bad lucky.

The Russians are expecting to be the leading nation on the total medals table and they will not be pleased if they win less than 21 medals. Heads will roll!

If GDP really is the determining factor it should not be too difficult to devise a handicapping system to level the field of competition.

I am inclined to take this with a bucket rather than a pinch of salt.

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