March 31, 2005

Following the Money, Part 3

A couple of weeks ago (read part 1, read part 2) I wrote two posts that tracked federal funding for amateur sports in Canada over an eight-year period.

Today I am following up with a performance-per-dollar analysis of the various Canadian NSFs. Here I define "performance" very narrowly as "winning Olympic medals," and use the annual NSF funding as a measure of the cost of those medals.

I counted up the medals won by each sport in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, and 2004 — roughly the time period covered by the spending data — and then divided by the number of summer (3) or winter (2) games. This total was then divided by the average annual Sport Canada contribution to the NSF, in millions of Canadian dollars.

Analysis of performance versus cost for Canadian NSFs.
Sport Average Annual Funding (M$) Medals per Olympiad Per Million Dollars Annual Funding
Summer Sports
Diving 0.48 3.45
Cycling 0.80 2.93
Rowing 0.99 2.70
Canoe/Kayak 0.76 2.64
Gymnastics 0.59 2.26
Wrestling 0.57 1.75
Triathlon 0.20 1.63
Taekwondo 0.28 1.19
Swimming 1.39 0.96
Synchro Swim 0.76 0.88
Boxing 0.49 0.68
Judo 0.51 0.66
Tennis 0.56 0.60
Athletics 1.26 0.53
Yachting 0.74 0.45
Volleyball 0.87 0.39
Basketball 0.91 0.00
Other Summer 4.98 0.00
All Summer 17.12 0.93
Winter Sports
Speed Skating 1.06 8.52
Curling 0.56 3.55
Snowboard 0.23 2.20
Freestyle Ski 0.66 1.51
Hockey 1.26 1.19
Figure Skating 0.87 1.15
Bobsleigh & Luge 0.49 1.02
Cross Country Ski 0.55 0.90
Alpine Ski 0.92 0.00
Other Winter 0.43 0.00
All Winter 7.04 2.27

A couple of notes about the data. First, recall that the funding data cover eight fiscal years from 1995-96 through 2002-03. The Average Annual Funding is always averaged over eight years, except for Triathlon, Taekwondo, and Snowboard, which did not receive funding in all years. In these cases I only included years where the NSF received at least $100,000 in Sport Canada money. Also, remember that this annual funding is the total Sport Canada contribution to the NSF, which includes money for high performance and also money for sport development, or participation, or whatever you want to call it. And some of the NSFs have very significant non-government sources of funding, which are not included here.

We shouldn't put too much weight on this, because of the points above, and because of small sample sizes inherent in counting medals this way. But overall, I think it gives a rough picture of the sports that are "efficient" at producing Olympic medallists in Canada. Speed Skating, clearly, is where we are getting the real bang for our buck! I was surprised to see one sport so far ahead of the rest.

Any other surprises? Well, among summer sports I was surprised that Gymnastics is such an efficient medal producer, but I probably shouldn't have been, because the NSF also governs trampoline. I was also a little bit surprised that Diving receives relatively little funding.

Another interesting conclusion is that, on average, a summer Olympic medal is almost 2.5 times more expensive than a winter Olympic medal. Just for entertainment purposes, let's take a wild-assed stab at the impact of Own the Podium (my previous posts: 1, 2). If Own the Podium creates $11M per year of new government money for winter sports, and if we win (on average) 2.27 winter Olympic medals for every million dollars in annual government funding, then we would expect (11 × 2.27) = 25 new medals per winter Olympics.

Twenty-five new medals added to our 2002 total would put Canada well over the Own the Podium goal at 42. Obviously, this is not going to happen. In fact, it would take a whole new post to outline the flaws in my reasoning. But the basic point is that the Own the Podium funding is a very significant increase and will have a significant impact, especially if the funding level can be maintained after the 2010 games.


Anonymous said...

hey -- great post -- what is it that you used to say "MATH ABUSE"... or was it "lies, damn lies and statistics"... however that is really trying to bring some order to the topic -- dont you think that medals are really a chance occurence for Canadian athletes -- since they occur so infrequently, and that the concept of differentiating between sports that win so few medals runs contrary to the concept of adequate power??? what about re-running you analysis based on top 8 finishes -- which seems to me measures more the sport system, and less the individual athletes?

If I could remember my password I will eventually login as something other than anonymous -- WM-K1-91

Steve said...

What I'd really like to see is how we compare with other countries. I betcha we don't do so hot.

Amateur said...

Don't worry WM-K1-91, I can always recognize your posts from the lack of captialization.

I would say that there are only two weaknesses in the performance-cost analysis: I used a poor measure of performance, and a poor measure of cost. Other than that, it's air tight ...

Assuming I could get both of those issues sorted out without losing my day job, I could tackle Steve's question. I know that we do poorly compared to other countries in terms of our national wealth. But I suspect that we do OK in terms of dollars actually spent on sports. The problem is that we spend like Bulgaria.

Anonymous said...

I imagine that we get what we pay for versus other countries -- we are really comparable likely to the scandinavian countries in terms of overall budget (I would guess) -- the problem is that we spend it on too many sports instead of concentrating on a few in which we are traditionally strong -- i think if you took nordic skiing away from Norway, Sweden and Finland that they probably are comparable in their results... but I would have to check that... I think that we should compare ourselves to like minded societies... like scandinavians, & new zealand -- I dont think its fair to compare even to Australia which really occupies a USA type postion in the south pacific as the behemoth economy and land mass... and an incredible commitment to sport of any kind... but being so isolated they have certain distinct advanatages that we dont have... but that is a long story -- not to make excuses but we havemuch more in common with Norway, Sweden, Finland and New Zealand than we might think... WM-K1-91

Anonymous said...

OK... so Steve's comments intrigued me enough to do some math of my own... what I thought was that we should compare ourselves to societies who seem to share some of the same values of capitalism with a social safety net, and I came up with: Spain, Australia, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Finalnd, and New Zealand as examples of "first world" countries who I consider to be in a similar position as Canada internationally...

I researched the population, the GDP and the medals won winter and summer since 1996... here are the results...

NOR 1.37
NZL 1.89
AUS 2.17
FIN 3.50
NED 3.69
SWE 4.35
CAN 5.51
ESP 8.14

NZL 1.89
AUS 2.22
NED 4.74
NOR 4.83
SWE 5.79
ESP 8.14
CAN 9.27
FIN 11.45

NOR 1.91
FIN 5.04
CAN 13.60
NED 16.70
SWE 17.38
AUS 97.25

I think that this answers Steves question as to how we are doing compared to other countries -- poor -- we have a rich country but not many medals -- now this assumes thatr each contry puts the same value on sports and fitness, and invests the same proportion of GDP in sport... but it still means that we are not doing that well... especially as we are the highest GDP of any of the countries and actually the 9th highest in the world -- Spain is 10th, australia 14th, Netherlands 15th, Sweden 20th...

as to the cry that we are such a small country population wise and cant keep up to GBR, USA, CHN etc...well... I analyzed that also... and

COUNTRY Medals per mill pop
ESP 1.73
CAN 3.47
SWE 5.78
NED 6.50
NZL 7.00
FIN 7.20
AUS 9.42
NOR 23.56

COUNTRY summer medals per million
ESP 1.73
CAN 2.06
FIN 2.20
SWE 4.33
NED 5.06
NOR 6.67
NZL 7.00
AUS 9.21

COUNTRY winter medals per million
ESP 0.00
NZL 0.00
AUS 0.21
CAN 1.41
NED 1.44
SWE 1.44
FIN 5.00
NOR 16.89

so again we just are not stacking up... against the countries that I cosider to have societies similar to ours...

my next step would be to create some index of population and wealth -- perhaps a product of the ranking of popualtion and GDP for the G7/8 countries as well as the other countries I have here then use that new index to figure out the medals to wealth/pop index -- which would really combine both sides of the coin -- wealth and population and performance... but it would likely be depressing -- I have often thought we should be as aggressive as the Italians, Japanese, and Brits in our approach -- there is no reason why we cannot produce medals like the italians...

anyhow -- I do have a day job...

Amateur said...

Hey! You're stealing my thunder here. I have actually been puttering around with trying to make a reasonable "economic" predictor. GDP is not, by itself, a very good predictor, and neither is population ... although by carefully selecting the comparison countries you have normalized out some of the other important factors.

Having said all that, though, your basic conclusion is inescapable: Canada does poorly at the Olympics compared to countries of similar wealth and size. I don't know if it's true that we do worse on a per-dollar-spent basis, though, and I think that was what Steve was getting at. Do we just spend less money on sports, or do we spend it less efficiently, or both?

Anyway, the one advantage of GDP is that it is easy to get at, whereas finding out how much money countries spend on sports is more difficult.

Some time when things are less crazy at work I will post what I know about this and we can expand on it together.

Anonymous said...

I think that perhaps it is both less oney spent and less well spent -- although we seem to be in good company with spain... this is a complex issue and one that is difficult to dissect -- I think that what it boils down to is this -- the population and economic/resource density are so low that we may never be able to overcome these issues... EXCEPT... that Australia has done it extremely well... now they also dont have the dilution of their nationalism and identity by any neighbors at all... WM-K1-91

Amateur said...

As another data point, this article claims that New Zealand's 2004 medals cost $3.8M each. Without any context, it's not that useful, of course.