PwC’s sporting economists predict possible Olympic medal tally
Home advantage may influence the Olympic medal share; but the superpowers of the USA, China and Russia are still likely to the top of the medals table in London, according to a new analysis by economists at PwC.
With less than 50 days to go to the 2012 Olympics, pundits and punters are turning their minds to the medals tally that Britain and others major countries could collect in August.
To kick-start the debate, PwC unleashed its economists to analyse the drivers of past Olympic performance and used these to produce benchmarks against which performance at the 2012 games could be estimated.
Looking back at the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics, a number of economic and political factors were found to be statistically significant in helping to explain the number of medals won by each country. These included:
- average income levels (measured by GDP per capita at PPP exchange rates);
- whether the country was previously part of the former Soviet/communist bloc (including Cuba and China); and
- Whether the country was also the host nation.
PwC chief economist, John Hawksworth says that, in general, the number of medals won increases with the population and economic wealth of the country, but less than proportionately:
“David can sometimes beat Goliath in the Olympic arena, although superpowers like the US, China and Russia continue to dominate the medal table.
“Many countries from the former Soviet bloc continued to outperform relative to the size of their economies at the Beijing Olympics, despite it being held nearly two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
“This effect is fading, however, and is no longer statistically significant if recent Olympic performance is also included in the model.
“More recently however, we can see a similar effect at work in China, where state support contributed greatly to their Olympic success in Beijing: sport it seems is one area where planned economies can succeed.”
In the extract below, our model forecasts the top 10 medal-winning countries in London compared to Beijing 2008.
Olympic medal projections for London 2012 relative to Beijing 2008
PwC’s sporting economists concluded that, as it is not the host country this time around, China may find it more difficult to stay ahead of the US (as it did in Beijing on gold medals although not total medals).
John Hawksworth says that the host nations generally punch above their weight when it comes to collecting Olympic medals and this probably bodes well for the British team in London.
“Our table suggests that the British team could win around 54 medals this time around, beating an already exceptionally good performance of 47 medals in Beijing.
“According to our projections this would leave Britain in fourth place in the total medal table, behind the US, China and Russia, but ahead of old rivals Australia and Germany. That would be a stark contrast with the experience of Sydney 2000 where we only won around half as many medals as host nation Australia.
“But all models are subject to margins of error and they can never take full account of the human factor of exceptional individual performances – so we will be only too pleased if the British team can beat our model in London this summer.”
Contact: John Hawksworth | Tel: +44 (0)20 7213 1650