The Olympic Story part 1: was Team GBR's performance in Beijing overrated?

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TEAM GBR: 4th or 6th?
Memories fade and naked facts remain: GBR’s performance at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games is generally remembered as a successful one.
The medals table tells of a remarkable 4th place behind the sporting world’s giants USA, China and Russia, with 47 medals to Team GBR’s credit, 19 of which were gold (of 302 medal-awarding events).
Yet the GSN Olympic ranking places GBR in 6th position. A slim difference but one that hurts nonetheless, as traditional sporting rivals such as Australia and Germany both edged ahead of GBR in the GSN ranking.
GSN’s ranking method probes deeper into the placements and weighs each sport on an objective scale according to the breadth of international participation to it, for a more accurate representation of each sport’s and each nation’s worth.
For example, while 86 countries won a medal in Beijing, and China topped the table with fewer medals than runners-up USA (100 vs 110) but more golds (51 vs 36), GSN’s Olympic ranking featured 166 nations scoring points, and saw the USA win convincingly with 4303 points, over 1500 more than China: in other words, the USA scored 56% more points than China!
The case for GBR is the reverse: the 4th place in the medals turns into a 6th place in the GSN ranking, with 1265 points to the credit. Both Australia (4th) and Germany (5th) earned more GSN points than GBR.
How did this reversal happen? Why has GBR lost out to its immediate rivals, and how can it improve on Beijing, come London 2012?
The beauty of GSN’s ranking is that it comes with its own analytical explanation.
Did gender performance affect GBR’s result in Beijing? The answer is “not much”. The Men won 52,6% of GBR’s points, the Women 43,3% and the remaining 4,3% was for Mixed gender events where, incidentally, GBR was 3rd overall. In the Olympics gender ranking this translated into a 10th place overall for the Men and 8th for the Ladies.
The sports analysis offers one of the key explanations for GBR’s 6th place overall in Beijing. GBR scored points in 19 sports, a respectable total but a great area of improvement for London 2012. Germany, who was just ahead of GBR in the GSN ranking, scored points in 27 sports, Australia in 24 sports and so did France, who were 7th overall, immediately behind GBR. China , third-placed overall, scored points in 34 sports, 15 more than GBR.
In the second part of this series we will review in detail how GBR did in which sport. For the time being we note that the other big reason why Team GBR’s ranking wasn’t higher  is its poor performance in team ball sports (TBS).
The TBS in which GBR scored points, a healthy 140 points between Men and Ladies, was Hockey, with a 5th and 6th place respectively. But glaring for their absences are the other major TBS, in either gender: Football, Volleyball and Basketball.
Germany for example earned 600 of their 1576 points (38%) between Hockey (a gold and a bronze) and Football (bronze in the Women). Australia, not recognized as a main power in TBS, added up a very useful 470 points between Hockey and Basketball (silver in the Women). Even Italy earned 450 points (27% of their total) between Volleyball and Football.
As far as the top three countries are concerned, the TBS performances are equally remarkable. The USA earned 1254 points (29% of their total) in Basketball (gold in both genders), Volleyball, Football (gold in the Women) and Baseball.
It’s clear that if GBR could improve significantly in TBS, while retaining a strong performance in other sports (and the omens are good, as part 2 of this story will tell), then in London 2012 GBR could well aim for one of the top three spots in the best ranking available of world sporting eminence.