What Japan and Stanford University Have in Common

Yesterday I posted a quiz to blog readers asking what Stanford University and Japan have in common.

Honestly, it was not that easy, but somehow it took Noto only eight minutes from the time I made the post to provide the correct answer: they garnered the same number of medals in the 2008 Olympics: 25.

INSERT DESCRIPTIONImages from: U.S.A. Today and Stanford U.

I’m curious about how Noto got the answer. I couldn’t find a Google search that would easily give the answer. Perhaps Noto will be kind enough to enlighten the other blog readers in the comments section below.

One reason that this is not such an easy question is that the answer isn’t even really true.

The Stanford news office does proudly boast of 25 Olympic medals, the same number that Japan earned, but they are keeping score differently. Stanford counts multiple medals for the same event (e.g. both members of the women’s gold-medal beach-volleyball duo are from Stanford), but the official country medal counts don’t.

Regardless, it is pretty impressive that Stanford, with a current student body of 19,782, snagged the same number of medals as Japan, which has a population of 127 million. Of course, the admissions requirements for Japan put less weight on high school athletic performance.


Freakonomics plagiarised the Stanford advertising. By trying so hard to be hip, Freakonomics proved their analysis is about as deep as cut-and-paste, and as relevant as garbage.


Other possible answers:

Both have red and white as their colors.

Both have pilgrimage spots for unregenerate rightwingers-- the Yasukuni shrine, and the Hoover Institute.

Both have fewer Nobel laureates than Berkeley.

Black Political Analysis

Texas had 18 medals. Just a little plug for my Longhorns.

Walter Wimberly

"its more interesting that Stanford with a student body of 19K was able to generate almost 25% of the total US medal count, with less than 0.01% of the US population "

but consider the population of Stanford. They are almost all in the age range of your typical Olympic athlete. Now consider the population of the US, with many under 16 and many in their 50s, 60s, or older, which are not competing. You would have to look at the population count of the typical age of a competitor to get more accurate than 0.01%. Impressive still I'm sure.


Who got more medals than the US and China ... combined?



While Kerri Walsh (half of the beach volleyball gold medal team) is a Stanford alumna, Misty May-Treanor went to Long Beach State.


How is Stanford’s current student body population of 19,782 relevant? The medal count also includes alums.

— Posted by ma(2)

Did you check out the link http://gostanford.cstv.com/sports/olympics/spec-rel/08-medalcount.html It's just this years winners.


It's an interesting stat, but cherry-picking, like comparing how many tennis champions have come from Nick Bolleteri's academy to, say, Lativia with one.

You might compare NFL football players from USC (with its millions every year in scholarships) with football players from Germany. Population is misleading because USC draws from a base of 330 million, while Germany draws from 60 million, most of whom aren't interested in our version of football.


if Stanford and Japan were put on ranking Japan will be AHEAD of Stanford. Since Japan has 9 golds compared to Stanford 8.

Only in USA media does overall number of medals counts in rest of world- number of Gold matters.

Even IOC ranking based on number of Gold. Since single Gold cant be measured in value to Silver and Bronze and YOU (read Steven Levitt) being a seasoned economist should know better than that.

So, NO Stanford and Japan till now have NOTHING in common


We are comparing apples to oranges here... As #5 said, the medal count includes alums so the populations isn't ~20k. Also, the page itself states they counted the medals differently. Each person on a team sport that won counts as one medal - for example, water polo won silver, and 'officially' the US got one medal, however, Stanford counts it as 4.

Frank Fujita

I think that the correct metric would be that Stanford students/alums (there were alum medals, right?) produced what % of US collegiate olympic medals (some of whom did not win them for the US) out of the population of all of the US college students/alums.


the alumni association sent out the news in its regular email last week, so anyone who is an alum, related to an alum, or in contact with an alum could have known. Also, the count isnt just current students; it also includes alums. So the pool is greater than 19,000 but probably less than 125,000. Finally, only Kerri Walsh of the woman's beach volleyball team went to Stanford.


I thought Misty May went to Long Beach State. If Stanford is counting her gold, they definitely have a "different" system of counting.


re your observation:

"Regardless, it is pretty impressive that Stanford,with a current student body of 19,782, snagged the same number of medals as Japan, which has a population of 127 million."

its more interesting that Stanford with a student body of 19K was able to generate almost 25% of the total US medal count, with less than 0.01% of the US population


I guess this is not the right place to propose it, but couldn't it be that Noto got it right but for luck? I mean, Olympics were huge, if Levitt heard it from somewhere, someone else must have heard it too, academia is known for its gossipy members...


My initial guess was something to do with Nobel Prize winners, but I couldn't find a combination of alums and current and former faculty to make that work. My second guess was something to do with MLB players (perhaps MLB All-Stars). Then I thought of the Olympics (the Olympic medal tables were mentioned on this blog, after all). I knew that Stanford had a history of producing successful Olympians, especially swimmers (e.g. Jenny Thompson), so it seemed possible that the medal totals were similar. Google confirmed ("Stanford 25 medals") -- although in my rush to be first, I admit I didn't even realize that the medals were counted differently.


This is just Stanford advertising that they put "Olympian" very high in their admissions criteria.

It's not like Stanford MADE these Olympians. They were crafted and honed and trained long before they applied to Stanford.


How is Stanford's current student body population of 19,782 relevant? The medal count also includes alums.


I knew right away because the University of texass makes similar boasts quite proudly (which annoy me to no end).


My guess is that Noto guessed and may be a Stanford alum. Stanford is big on that kind of stuff and the alumni office sends out emails with the number of medals and how stanford athletes are doing. I am not sure if stanford still holds this title, but for a long time they were also the university with the most NCAA championships!! Not exactly what you think of when you think of powerhouse athletic college, but there are a lot of tremendous athletes at Stanford and also a lot of Stanford alums who are great athletes -- plus we get a number of countries represented, not just the US.