We did fine at the Olympics, how about some other competitions?

So Australia apparently came 9th or 10th in the medal tally in Rio 2016, lower if you look at medals per per team member. So we had a relatively inefficient team; or we are more inclusive, who’s to say? The problem is, we are trying to be one of the ‘big’ Olympic nations when we have better things to do.

Anyway. There’s discussion in the Australian media about an under-performing Olympic team. Will it result in more funding? Less funding? Funding moved around seemingly at random? Probably the third. How are we doing on some more meaningful metrics? (These stats are from various recent years; some tables may even change. The ranking are as noted by me when I wrote this, in August 2016. I’m not being terribly scientific here.)

OECD Education ranking: 14th (and falling).

Life expectancy for females at birth: 9th.

Size of economy (GDP): 12th to 13th.

Research and development spending (real terms): 14th. As fraction of GDP: 16th.

Democracy index: 9th.

Welfare spending (fraction of GDP): 25th. Fraction spent on the poorest 20% of the population: 1st. (Benefits are heavily means tested in Australia.)

Gender equity index: 11th.

Intentional homicides per capita (36th, where 1st is lowest rate, which is a good thing).

Suicide rate: Approx. 57th (1st is lowest).

Number of Nobel Prize winners: Equal 15th.

Patent applications (2014): 10th.

Advertising spending per capita (2014): 2nd.

Global Peace Index (2014): 15th.

Manufacturing output: 15th.

Population: 57th.

Disposable income: 10th. Obesity: 44th.


And so on. Key point is, if we want to be ‘top 5’ in the world at the Olympics, then our priorities are all screwed up. There are dozens of much more important metrics where we should be aiming for top 5. Gold medals is not one of them.


Bah, humbug.


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About Darren

I'm a scientist by training, based in Australia.

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