According to a newly released report, the United States is predicted to win the most medals at the London 2012 Olympics. For a country with less than 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. is expected to win 103 medals at the XXX Olympiad, 10% more than the runner up — China. This may come as no surprise to some, considering that it has won the most medals in 14 of the 25 Summer Games that it has participated in, including the past five Games.
However, based on a report, published by the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, the number of medals a country wins supports the probability that it will win medals in subsequent Olympics. The report’s model predicted the medal count in Beijing in 2008 with 95% accuracy and has been the most accurate predictor of medal distribution among countries since it was unveiled for the Sydney Games in 2000. Based on the report, 24/7 Wall St. identified the ten countries that will win the most Olympics Medals at the London Summer Games.
The accuracy of the formula is impressive, given that it only considers four main factors. It includes two economic measures — population and gross domestic product (GDP) per capita — which it assigns equal weight. The other two factors that it considers are unique to the Olympics and include total medals won, which it accords the most weight, and whether a country is hosting the Olympics, which has been assigned a different weight with each game.
According to Emily Williams, author of the report and PhD candidate at London Business School and a recent graduate of Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, when looking at the results “the lagged medal share has the biggest impact and the hosting effect is also pretty substantial.” The model takes into account the total number of medals won by each country in every Olympiad since 1960. China and the U.S. have dominated in recent years, which was factored into their 2012 estimate. Meanwhile, Russia, Australia, and Germany, fell below expectations last year, which has hurt their projections for this year as well.
The host effect is considerable and should be a boon to the United Kingdom this summer. “The U.K. stands ready to greatly benefit in terms of its overall medal count and especially its coveted gold medal total,” Williams observes in the report. For the United Kingdom, the model predicts that this advantage will assure third place this summer with 25 golds, up from fourth place in 2008 when it was awarded only 19. It will also increase its total medals won from 47 in 2008 to 62 in 2012.
In the 2004 study which the Williams’ report is based on, the authors suggest that the host effect could be the result of diminished costs for athletes from the host nation to participate, the benefit of participating in a home facility or the motivational force of competing before family, friends and fellow countrymen.
A look at the countries with the most medals demonstrates the impact that a country’s population can have on the eventual medal count. According to the report, “The larger the population a country has, the more chance it will have an athlete with the extraordinary natural ability necessary to become an Olympic champion.” Of the top ten countries that are predicted to win the most medals this year, seven of the 10 are among the 10 most populous countries in the world. The exceptions are Pakistan, Nigeria and Bangladesh.
Neither the population size nor the GDP per capita can be considered in isolation of the other. The U.S. and Germany both do well because they have large populations and considerable wealth. But having an edge in one of these factors can help compensate for a weakness in the other. For instance, China, with its large population, wins more medals than many countries with a higher GDP per capita. Although Australia’s population size ranks just 51st in the world, its GDP per capita ranks seventh, and its standing in the medal count for 2012 is predicted to be seventh.
Based on the report, “Jolly Good Show: Who Will Win the 2012 Olympic Games in London?,” by Emily Williams, which relies on the model developed by Dartmouth professors Andrew Bernard and Meghan Busse, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the countries that are likely to win the most medals at the 2012 London Games. To approximate the data which was used to calculate the projections, we considered 2011 GDP and population data from the World Bank for the 28 countries that the model predicts will win 6 or more gold medals. We obtained total Summer Olympics medal counts from the NBC website, also to approximate the data used for the formula. For countries that have not consistently had the same borders, including Germany and Russia, the medal counts for the entire area were included. For example, all medals won by the former USSR were included in Russia’s count.
These are the ten countries that will win the most medals in the London Olympic Games.