Predicting Olympic medal counts is pure economics, an all-White basketball league, and the IOC wrestles with sex ambiguity

January 22, 2010 at 2:17 am 1 comment

Interesting news from the sports world…

Daniel Johnson makes remarkably accurate Olympic medal predictions. But he doesn’t look at individual athletes or their events. The Colorado College economics professor considers just a handful of economic variables to come up with his prognostications.

The result: Over the past five Olympics, from the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney through the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, Johnson’s model demonstrated 94% accuracy between predicted and actual national medal counts. For gold medal wins, the correlation is 87%.

His forecast model predicts a country’s Olympic performance using per-capita income (the economic output per person), the nation’s population, its political structure, its climate and the home-field advantage for hosting the Games or living nearby. “It’s just pure economics,” Johnson says. “I know nothing about the athletes. And even if I did, I didn’t include it.” More here.

The All-American Basketball Alliance announced in a news release Sunday evening that it intends to start its inaugural season in June. “Only players that are natural born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race are eligible to play in the league,” the statement said.

Don “Moose” Lewis, the commissioner of the AABA, said the reasoning behind the league’s roster restrictions is not racism. “There’s nothing hatred about what we’re doing,” he said. “I don’t hate anyone of color. But people of white, American-born citizens are in the minority now. Here’s a league for white players to play fundamental basketball, which they like.”

Lewis said he wants to emphasize fundamental basketball instead of “street-ball” played by “people of color.” He pointed out recent incidents in the NBA, including Gilbert Arenas’ indefinite suspension after bringing guns into the Washington Wizards locker room, as examples of fans’ dissatisfaction with the way current professional sports are run. More here.

A panel of medical experts convened by the International Olympic Committee recommended Wednesday that the issue of athletes whose sex seems ambiguous be treated as a medical concern and not one of fairness in competition.

The panel’s recommendations were criticized by some athletes, who said that athletes with masculinizing disorders are so different from other women that their presence in competition is unfair.

Forget about level playing fields, said Dr. Myron Genel of Yale. “For a lot of us here, there is no such thing,” he said. “We were told at
the meeting about a Finnish family that was extraordinarily successful in cross-country skiing. They were found to have a genetic disorder that provided them higher levels of hemoglobin, and therefore they had superior oxygen-carrying capability. Specific genetic defects provide advantages.” More here.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. jleeger  |  January 22, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    flabbergasted

    Reply

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Jason R. Atwood

I'm an avid trail runner and doctoral student at U.C. Berkeley who studies motivation and the relationship between the mind and body. This blog is a forum to share research, news, and musings about these topics of interest. More

Play is the beginning of knowledge.

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