The real Olympic medal tally:

Walt Hawtin writes: Re. “The real Olympic medal tally” (yesterday, item 1). The Great Beijing Olympics’ Medals Analysis currently being undertaken by Crikey and all the mainstream press is interesting and predictable. But consider this. Most events allow only a certain number of competitors per event, so even if populous countries like China or the USA had competitors who were considered the third, fourth or fifth best in their fields globally, in many events they would not get a run (or walk, swim, kayak or dive) would they?

So a competitor from a smaller country could earn a silver or bronze, yet actually only be fourth or fifth best in the world. This must skew the medals away from the bigger countries. Not what we want to think about, I know, but it makes most of the post-Games medal analysis a moot exercise.

Also, the Commonwealth Bank’s advertisements bashing the US during the Olympic’s coverage on Seven is a little boorish and cheap, isn’t it? This whole Crocodile Dundee archetype with the down-to-earth true blue Aussie outsmarting the apparently-sophisticated-but-really-dumb Americans has been done to death. George Bush is going; they got hammered by the Chinese in the medal count … time to give the poor buggers a break? Disclaimer: To quote a t-shirt I wore in the Mid-East 12 years ago: I am not an American.

David Lenihan writes: I’m a little confused how Thomas Hunter reaches the figures he does. His calculation on how many citizens it takes to earn a gold medal infers Australia takes 1,471,489 citizens per Gold, with a population of around 22 million, whereas New Zealand takes 4,173,460 citizens to produce one gold medal. As New Zealand won 3 Gold my calculation is New Zealand takes 1,391,153 persons per Gold as its pop is approx 4.173,489. Perhaps Mr Hunter was not taking too much notice of just how many golds our friends over the Tasman won. Board Riding, Rowing and Track and Field. Credit where credit is due, they box well above their weight in all aspects of sport.

Carol Morton writes: We have enjoyed the Crikey coverage of the Olympics. But on your summary piece yesterday, there is a patriotic obligation to point out that New Zealand won three gold medals in Beijing, which alters your calculations on citizens per gold. By our reckoning NZ’s three golds — in rowing (double sculls), sailing (board), and track and filed (shot put) — gives NZ a ratio of 1,391,153 citizens per gold. A leading performance.

Gavin Robertson writes: In his blog, BBC Australia Correspondent Nick Bryant says “Australia provided a lot of the coaching talent at the games for other successful countries. They talk about wind-assisted sprints; I’m surprised nobody here has yet produced a medal ranking for Aussie-assisted medals?” Perhaps you might like to crunch the numbers on that one for us?

Ian Mannix writes: Love the table on gold medals. What chance you discovering “medals per dollar of government funding?” That might help us assess the value of the AIS and the various, and increasingly numerous, state bodies, such as the SA Sports Association etc.

John Dougall writes: What a frolic! Your analysis just proves the old statistician’s adage: “If you torture the data long enough it will confess to anything!”

Olympics — Boris Johnson & Jimmy Page:

Doug Clark writes: Thanks to Crikey, I’ve admired snippets of Boris Johnson’s work before, but that hand-over from the starched collar party man in regulation blue suit and red tie to Bo-Jo with his gut hanging out and jacket undone like he’d just had a big curry and a few lagers, standing there with his hands in his suit coat pockets or pumping the air, was one of the great moment of the Games. (His ping pong speech afterwards was a ripper too!)

Guntis Sics writes: It was noticeable that when the Chinese Olympic organiser spoke at the Games closing last night there was no translation running alongside, the commentators did roughly paraphrase him obviously from a pre set flyer but it was insulting I thought. Also, no audio feed of Jimmy Page playing! Unbelievable that he only appears once in a blue moon and Channel Seven can’t even get a decent audio feed and we have to suffer yet more inane commentary.

Alcopops:

Pamela Curr writes: Re. “Nelson makes molehills out of summits” (20 August, item 4). As I purchased a bottle of wine on Sunday night, I asked the young fellow serving if he thought that the tax on alcopops made a difference to young people’s buying preferences. His reply: “Too right — don’t believe what they say — sales are way down on all spirits — those too (pointing at rows of bottles of vodka and other spirits). He continued: “Our sales are so bad — I will be lucky to have a job next week”. Maybe it is time to stop asking the hotel lobby and party politicians about the effects of the tax. It might give us a more accurate picture of the effects if we ask the workers in the grog shops – not the owners. This grog shop is situated in a large shopping centre with two major supermarkets.

The BCA:

Ben Scheltus writes: Re. “Second reading reveals BCA report is bullsh-t of the highest order” (yesterday, item 9). Thanks for those remarks – they were needed. The BCA has truly played “the glass is half full” card! Is it not strange that when it comes down to self interest, it’s all doom and gloom? Yet when it comes to the welfare of the planet, the sceptics think everything will be all right?

Brendan Nelson:

John Goldbaum writes: Re. “When the going gets weird, the weird turn Liberal” (yesterday, item 2). How could we euthanize Colin/Collette (The Whale Calf) yet keep flogging an almost dead horse in Brendan Nelson? He is suffering from terminal Hendy Virus. It is cruel that the Liberal Party won’t put him out of his misery.

Aviation horror stories:

Nicolas Brasch writes: Re. “What won’t CASA tell us about Qantas?” (Yesterday, item 5). I’m as interested as the next person in airline bungles and misadventures but do we have to have so many stories about them in Crikey? I mean, if I was that interested in every late arrival to Gate 32 I’d subscribe to Flight Weekly or whatever publication contains such statistics. But I’m not, and I cannot believe that many of my fellow subscribers are either. It might be exciting to you, Ben Sandilands, but to me it’s just plain dull.

Public servants:

John Kotsopoulos writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). “The NSW Premier has apparently sent an email to all Public Servants saying that the NSW Public service would be shut down for a fortnight at Christmas so that: (a) The NSW public service could wipe out a chunk of accrued leave on its books; and (b) so that staff could ‘spend more time with their families’. It goes without saying that staff will be compelled to use up part of their annual leave” reports your anonymous tipster yesterday. Aw diddums. That is what happens to a large part of private sector employees already and most of them don’t have the RDOs, flexi-leave provisions or unofficial smoke breaks these fat cats take for granted.

Balance and Obama:

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “DNC primer: Welcome to Denver. High enough for ya?” (Yesterday, item 4). Having had the media give prominent coverage to the gaffe by John McCain over his wife’s properties, I wonder when the media will give prominence to the Barack Obama property deal with fraudster Tony Rezko; his not inconsiderable family income, and the general corruption of his party in his hometown of Chicago?

Why the fuss?:

Paul Gilchrist writes: Re. “WYD wash-up: NSW put on a great party (even if it snubbed most)” (22 July, item 13). Last Wednesday, the AJC said that World Youth Day was “a superb event”. It was “a logistical triumph” and they are “confident that WYDCA will deliver Royal Randwick back to us in good condition”. I think they are right. What was all the fuss about?

A lesson in politics and history:

Alex Mitchell writes: Re. David Begg (yesterday, comments). Normally I let “old Trot” insults go through to the keeper. But in his enthusiasm to cane me for unforgivably mixing the new NSW Nationals director Ben Franklin, who served on the staff of former Liberal leaders John Brogden and Peter Debnam, with ex-Nationals adviser Ben Hamilton of Country Energy, Begg wrote here yesterday that it is nice to have “old styled Trots” around “as they can be reminded of Hungary in ’56 and Czechoslovakia in ’68”. Here’s a lesson in politics and history for you, David. The invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia were ordered by the Stalinist bureaucracy in Moscow. Trotskyism came into existence in uncompromising opposition to Stalinism. The founder of the Fourth International Leon was assassinated by the KGB in Mexico in 1940 on the orders of Stalin. There is a “river of blood” between Trotskyism and Stalinism. Trotskyists utterly condemned Moscow’s invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia and took part in street demonstrations and Soviet embassy protests around the world. Got it, Dave?

The world’s biggest radio telescope:

Chris Nickel writes: Re. “So what’s so good about the world’s biggest radio telescope?” (20 August, item 12). I am shocked and appalled Eleri Harris. “So what’s so good about the world’s biggest radio telescope?” It’s a telescope and it’s REALLY big! If our nerds can’t say they have the biggest telescope then what? Do Australian scientists have to suffer that humiliation when a snooty French CERN Physicist tells him about how he has the biggest super-collider ever? Must they suffer the indignation when a Porto Rican talks of the largest (single aperture) radio telescope, the Arecibo Observatory? Must they cringe and hide at mention of NASA’s Keck and Hubble telescopes, not to mention the Giant Magellan Telescope which will dwarf all others?

Where are our once brave scientists who built parks (the radio observatory) and pushed the envelope of science? There they are withdrawn deep into the recesses of the Bars of ineptitude, forever relegated to mediocrity at the sandwich table of defeat, in international scientific conferences. Mere empty husks of their former glory, sadly mumbling about glory days of parks and endlessly re-watching The Dish.

While I understand that we fund the national institute for sports, “sport science” as it is called, who look after those tragically affected by sport — we must not neglect the true sciences. More money more toys and more scientists are needed. No true scientist can get really fired up over the Olympics… ooo-ahh 100m in barely under 10 seconds, so what? A measly 10m/sec? Let’s put that in terms an astrophysicist can understand 0.0000000033 c or in layman’s terms 3 hundred millionth of the speed of light. Urasian bolt? Please.

Meanwhile scientists, engineers and other intellectually enlightened people are working hard to accelerate protons to phenomenal speeds. So I severely hope you will cover, shortly the greatest scientific achievement since man steeped on the moon, CERN’s LHC goes live in 15 days. Yes Finally the Large Hadron Collider will go live in just 15 days. Ushering in a new era of scientific understanding. In case you have forgotten the details (in the excitement of the moment) it is a 27km Loop spanning at least two countries collaborated from 20 countries are 1000 physicists 200 grads and a sh-tload of general workers. See here.

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to [email protected]. Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name – we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.

Peter Fray

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