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Using Economics to Predict the Olympic Medal Count

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The Olympic Games are upon us and I for one am excited. Go Canada, go… even though by all expert accounts, we’re pretty much going to suck. If sports were like fashion, then summer just isn’t our colour. We’re way too cool and we’ll do our thing in Vancouver 2010 :)

So I’m flipping through my local paper and chanced upon an article involving economics and the Olympics. Now, I’ve always liked my financial information served with a twist – for economists to get freaky like Stephen Levitt or to go undercover like Tim Harford. They are capable of finding interesting nuggets of information like why drug dealers still live with their mothers or why you can never buy a decent used car… Intelligence mixed with the inane. I like it.

Anyways, an economist by the name Dan Johnson was making Beijing Olympics medal count predictions for countries based on:

  • income per capita
  • population
  • climate
  • political structure
  • home field advantage

Interestingly enough, how much a nation spends on the athletic program is not a factor since it’s difficult to obtain internationally comparable data but Johnson has been pretty spot on so far. He started predicting in Sydney 2000 and continued for the following Winter and Summer Olympics. He’s running at a 93-96% accuracy.

So what are his medal predictions for the Beijing Olympics? Here’s the breakdown of your home and native land.

  • United States: 103 medals total; 33 gold
  • Russia: 95 medals total; 28 gold
  • China: 89 medals total; 44 gold
  • Germany: 66 medals total; 18 gold
  • Japan: 37 medals total; 16 gold
  • Hungry: 31 medals total; 10 gold
  • Italy: 29 medals total; 8 gold
  • Great Britain: 28 medals total, 3 gold
  • France: 27 medals total, 5 gold
  • Australia: 26 medals total, 2 gold
  • South Korea: 24 medals total, 6 gold
  • Poland: 24 medals total, 6 gold
  • Bulgaria: 23 medals total, 6 gold
  • Netherlands: 22 medals total, 4 gold
  • Sweden: 19 medals total, 2 gold
  • Canada: 17 medals total, 0 gold

Not surprisingly, Canada comes in at 0 gold medals. Call me cynical but I believe the countries who have the best steroid masking agents or the best cover up teams will triumph.

I’m clearly still bitter from the Ben Johnson fiasco as a kid twenty years ago.

One of the mottos of the Olympic Games is: “The most important thing is not to win but to take part”. Yeah, so even though we suck, we’re clean! Yaaaay! Go Canada, go!

2 Responses to “Using Economics to Predict the Olympic Medal Count”

  1. on 01 Sep 2008 at 10:09 amAdil

    hey, good to see you’re back! :)

    things finally cooled down at work, eh?

  2. on 24 Sep 2008 at 8:10 pmSamantha

    I doubt that there is any accurate way of predicting the outcome of olympics based on any of the metrics listed above. You can never tell how someone may do on a given day of it they will make a mistake.

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