Who Competes with Whom in the Olympic Games?: Competition Frequency and National Similarities
Physica A 513: pp. 447-455, January 2019
22 Pages Posted: 2 Oct 2017 Last revised: 24 Dec 2018
Date Written: November 1, 2017
In the Olympic Games, professional athletes representing their nations compete fairly under the principles of sports regardless of the political and ideological differences that the competing nations may have. Despite the efforts of the International Olympic Committee to minimize political and economic influences, political and economic powers may still influence the results of the Olympic Games. In this paper, we examine how these direct competitions between nations changed over time during the period from 1952 to the recent 2016 games. To unveil patterns, we compare the Olympics in the Cold War and post-Cold War periods, identifying differences in geographical, economic, political, and cultural characteristics. We analyze the abovementioned characteristics by examining pairwise data representing competitions between two nations for each sporting event of the Olympic Games. First, we employed a network-based approach by using the maximum spanning tree (MST) algorithm. Then, we conducted a regression analysis using a gravity model to investigate the common characteristics. Our analysis shows that during the Cold War, no common characteristics defined the relationships between directly competing nations. However, in the post-Cold War era, we find that countries engaging in more competitions were similar in economy size such as GDP or GDP per capita. Also, countries of similar genetic and linguistic origin tended to compete more often. Our study differs from prior studies in that we utilize pairwise country data. Our focus is on the dyadic relations between countries that directly engaged in competition during the Summer Olympic Games from 1952 to 2016 and how these relations changed over time due to the influences of political and economic factors during and after the Cold War.
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