Friday, August 31, 2012

IOC and game theory

The badminton fiasco at the Olympics would seem to indicate that the IOC and other sports organizations need to learn some game theory:

Eight badminton players have been disqualified from the women's doubles competition after being accused of "not using one's best efforts to win".

Two pairs from South Korea and one each from China and Indonesia made a series of basic errors in Tuesday's matches.

All four pairs were accused of wanting to lose, in an attempt to manipulate the draw for the knockout stage.

MR discusses the game theoretic aspect of cycling and Sally Jenkins writes about how trying to lose also occurs in other sports and leagues such as NFL football where toward the end of the season teams do not necessarily try too hard to win in order to get a better draft pick.

We also watched some canoeing and the strange aspect of some of the qualifying rounds was that out of the 25 canoes going head-to-head six at a time, 24 would qualify. There were also rounds where everyone qualified for the quarter finals.

These two are related by only one thing which should have been obvious to me: Revenue maximization. In the case of badminton, instead of playing a knock-out system the IOC had the players play a round robin type system. There really isn’t any reason to do this unless they were interested in maximizing the number of events/rounds and hence revenue be it at the gate or on TV. Likewise in canoeing, they could have eliminated many ‘meaningless’ races by going straight to 16 instead of 24.

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