Olympic Games: RUB economists are daring to forecast the medals table

RUB economists are daring to forecast the medals table

What demographic, political, economic and cultural data conceal

Even before the XXX. Olympic Games really get started in London on 27 July, economists of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum have dared to forecast the final medals table without taking into consideration the training status of the participating athletes. Based on the assessment of numerous statistical data, they forecast that China, USA, and Russia will top the score table with 102, 100, and 71 medals, respectively. Furthermore, they expect that the British will take home more medals than before (57), Brazil (28) increases its medal standing in anticipation of the games being held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, whereas the German team will win 12 % fewer medals and slide down to 36 medals in the medals table. The detailed forecasts were worked out by Julia Bredtmann (Ruhr-Universität Bochum, RWI Essen), Carsten J. Crede (Ruhr-Universität Bochum) and Sebastian Otten (Ruhr-Universität Bochum, RWI Essen) and published on the following website: https://sites.google.com/site/olympicmedalspredictions

No mumbo-jumbo, but a scientifically sound model

The calculations of the Bochum economists indicate that forecasts are possible by applying econometric models. They have entered political, economic, demographic and cultural data into their model and have retrospectively ‘forecast’ the medals table of previous games. The forecast is amazing: It correlates up to 97.4 % with the actual medals table of participating countries of the Athens games in 2004 and up to 96.9 % of the Beijing games in 2008.

Everyone looks at the medals table

What is important during the Olympic Games is not only the personal success of individual athletes, but also the competition of the individual countries; everyone looks at the medals table, the investment in success by the participating countries. Before the 2008 Games in Beijing, China dedicated more than US$ 4.5 billion in supporting sports, in order to replace the USA as a ‘sports superpower’, which is an enormous investment. In recent years, the British government also considerably increased spending in anticipation of the 2012 Olympics by investing and supporting top athletes. However, it is not money alone that influences which nation ultimately will be at the top. Populous countries have a larger number of talented and therefore successful athletes than small countries; wealthy countries can spend more money on their athletes than countries with comparatively low per capita income, which find it difficult to operate efficient support systems for talented athletes. Moreover, there are countries of which one would not have expected great successes, such as Jamaica in 2008 in Beijing. Ultimately, political systems have an influence on success: countries with socialist systems or a socialist past were more successful in collecting medals.

The success of women depends on emancipation and tradition

In addition, the Bochum-based economists have looked separately at the medal scores of women and men. Women from countries with emancipated societies and equal opportunities in the workforce are more successful in the Olympics than those who come from societies with a patriarchal character. In the applied model, the position of women in society is measured by various factors. Women's labour force participation rate, the fertility rate, the number of years since women had the right to vote, and an indicator for countries in which Islam is the main religion were found to be significant influencing factors in the analysis.

The famous home advantage and the climate

Ultimately, the famous home advantage also comes into play. The respective host country has increased chances of success and athletes of the future host country profit from the early expansion of athletic support in their home country when preparing for their own role as host. Climatic conditions of the home country also have an effect on the athletes’ medals success. Because of their poor training conditions, athletes from countries with an extreme climate are disadvantaged compared to participants from moderate climate zones, especially with respect to outdoor sports.

The detailed forecast

Based on the results of the empirical analysis, a forecast for the number of medals potentially won by the participating nations in the 2012 Olympics can be predicted. The top 15 nations and the forecasted number of medals: 1. China (102 medals), 2. United States (100), 3. Russia (71), 4. UK (57), 5. Australia (43), 6. France (39), 7. Germany (36), 8. South Korea (31), 9. Cuba (29), 10. Brazil (28), 11. Ukraine (28), 12. Italy (27), 13. Japan (27), 14. Belarus (19), 15. Spain (19).

The following webpage contains a table with forecast results for all participating countries:

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