The USA won the Beijing Games

Dawn Harper (USA) wins 100m hurdles at Beijing Olympics
The 2008 Beijing Olympics had one triumphant winner, says GSN: Team USA!
The Beijing Games were the highlight of the sporting year 2008, when they awarded 37191 GSN points, 56,5% of all points awarded in the year. The United States secured their Global Cup 2008 success with a resounding victory at the Beijing Games, where they scored 4303 points, beating second-placed China by over 1500 points (1543 in fact). Russia finished third, 484 points below China and Australia were an excellent fourth, ahead of Germany, Great Britain and France.
The US’s leadership was more marked in the Men (967 points over Russia) and less so in the Women, where China was relatively close, beaten by 442 points.
According to the medals table however, the USA came second behind China, earning more medals (110 vs 100) but fewer golds (36 vs 51) than the hosts. The tale of the medals was of a rather close race between China and the USA, with Russia a distant 3rd, while GSN saw the Americans win by a convincing margin (56% more points than China), with China and Russia hotly contesting 2nd place.
Why this reversal, and what sense can be made of the difference between the USA and China? Close analysis of GSN data reveals at least 2 factors in the USA’s success.
Firstly, the performance in major sports: Athletics and Swimming, the main point-scoring opportunities at the Games.
Athletics awarded 18,6% of all Olympic points, and the USA won comfortably, scoring 975 points, 233 ahead of second-placed Russia, who were followed by Kenya, Jamaica, Ethiopia and Great Britain. Team USA garnered 7 golds and several other medal and non-medal placements, while China were only 14th in the Athletics ranking with a paltry 129 points (best performances: two bronze).
Swimming proper (pool swimming) awarded 3315 points and here too the USA dominated, grabbing 23,8% of the points, while China finished 7th.
Water sports (Swimming, Synchronized Swimming, Diving, Water Polo, Canoe-Kayak and Rowing) were the biggest aggregate in points terms (7058 points, or 19.0% of total Olympic points) and the USA won again, ahead of Australia and Great Britain, scoring more than double the points of 4th placed China. The hosts partly compensated for their poor performance in Swimming by grabbing medals in Synchronized Swimming and Diving but still were far from the US.
The second factor was the performance in team ball sports. Basketball, Volleyball, Football, Hockey and Baseball, thanks to a high participation weighting (the measure of how popular a sport is world-wide) allow heavy hits in terms of points earned. For example, a gold medal in Football is worth 500 points.
The USA earned 26.5% of their Olympic points in team ball sports, and excelled in several of them. They won Basketball, Volleyball and Beach Volleyball, were 2nd in Softball, 3rd in Baseball, 4th in Football. The only sports in which they underperformed were Hockey (11th) and Handball (no points).
China by comparison scored only 18.8% of their points in team ball sports, and did better than the USA only in low scoring sports such as Handball and Hockey. In the 3 top sports (Basketball, Football and Volleyball) China did not do better than 5th place(Volley).
Finally we measured Points-per-Gold , mixing the medals table and GSN ranking by counting the number of GSN points won with gold medal performances by each country.
Here the difference between the USA and China is vast. The US’s 36 gold medals were worth 2500 points altogether, an average of 69,4 points-per-gold. China on the other hand scored 1350 points with their 51 golds, an average of “only” 26,5 points each.
So if you agree with GSN that each sport has a unique worth according to how widely practiced it is on the planet, then join us in plauding the USA’s Beijing victory. London 2012 will crown a new sport king very soon.