Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “Olympian Economics,” with Tess Vigeland sitting in for Kai Ryssdal this week.
With the 2012 Summer Olympic Games getting underway this week in London, we ask a simple question: do host cities really get the benefits their boosters promise, or are they just engaging in some fiscal gymnastics?
Olympic athletes have become increasingly reliant on scientists as advisers. A Wired article by Mark McClusky explores the efforts of sports scientists to improve athletic performance as gains have become harder to achieve. The Australian Institute of Sport is leading the charge; its success is best-demonstrated by an example from the skeleton, a sledding event that was recently reintroduced as an Olympic event:
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They determined that one significant predictor of success had nothing to do with the sled itself or even the skill of the pilot. The faster a competitor pushed the sled through the 30-meter start zone before jumping on it, the better they performed. So researchers set up a national testing campaign, looking for women with backgrounds in competitive sports who excelled at the 30-meter sprint. They also evaluated candidates to see how well they responded to feedback and coaching. Eventually, they picked a group of 10 athletes—including track sprinters, a water skier, and several surf lifesavers, an Australian sport that requires sprinting through sand.
Whether the Olympics are around the corner (as they are now) or a few years away, there are always Olympic-themed events going on. Recently, a group called Ravelry sponsored a knitting competition called the “Ravelympics.” [Related post on Ravelry: "Is There an Elitist Oligarchy in the Underworld of Knitters?"] Whereas most people probably imagined a bunch of grandmothers knitting mufflers, the U.S. Olympic Committee saw a conspiracy to infringe its trademark in the word “Olympics.”
After enduring a lot of criticism, the USOC backed off the knitters. But what the USOC tried to do isn’t unusual.
In fact, just recently luxury goods purveyor Louis Vuitton threatened to sue Penn law school over a poster for an academic conference on the law of fashion that featured an artist’s funny take on the Louis Vuitton logo (with the famous “LV” replaced with a “TM”). Louis Vuitton didn’t see the joke, and threatened the law school (which, being a law school, knew enough not to be scared). Read More »
Am in London for work and, as always, delight in reading the newspapers here. From today’s Telegraph, my favorite article:
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Accident and emergency departments have seen a 15 per cent rise in sports injuries as an unfortunate side effect of Olympic fever, figures show. Young men and boys are the most likely to be treated and peak times are Saturday afternoons and lunchtime Sundays. The figures indicate more people may be taking up sport in the run up to the Euro 2012 football tournament and the London Olympics. However more are ending up needing emergency treatment after knocks, cuts, sprains and strains, broken bones and head injuries, officials NHS figures show.
Dan Johnson, an economist at Colorado College, has been predicting Olympic medal counts for years with a model that uses metrics like population count, income per capita, and home-country advantage. In the past six Olympics, his model has a correlation of 93 percent between predictions and actual medal counts, and 85 percent for gold medals.
For the Games in London this summer, Johnson predicts that the U.S. Will be the top medal winner, followed by China, Russia, then Britain — the same order they finished in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Read More »
A new working paper gives tangible evidence that the measures taken by Beijing to reduce air pollution during the 2008 Olympics worked, but that more than half the effect faded away by October 2009. Read More »
The economic impact of hosting major sporting events. Read More »