Enigma 1276: Multiple byes
23 November 2014
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From New Scientist #2434, 14th February 2004
In modern knock-out events any byes that are needed are all given in the first round, but at the ancient Olympics all the competitors took part in the first round unless there was an odd number, in which case one drew a bye and joined the winners in the next round. This system was used in each subsequent round until there were two finalists. Even the semifinals might involve only three competitors, of whom one drew a bye into the final.
I think this system should be revived for one of the events at this years Olympics in Greece. One of the British competitors could draw the bye in every round and thus reach the final without ever beating anybody! But the odds against Britain getting a finalist in the event by these means are very nearly a million to one.
How many competitors are there in the event, and how many of them are British?