Analysis of 2016 Predicted Medal Tally

There are many published medal predictions that we found in the lead up for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Now that the actual results are known, the accuracy of the predictions can be assessed. We are using our own analysis method to calculate a single percent accuracy score. It basically calculates the average percentage difference between their prediction and the actual results for the final top five results.

In 2016, the leading country on the medal table at the end of the Olympics was the USA in terms of both gold medals and the most total medals, as predicted by most prediction models. Following the US on the medal tally was China (in terms of total medals) and Great Britain (in terms of gold medals). China and the USA were the top two on all bar one prediction, followed by either Russia or Great Britain. The unpredictability of the Russian results due to banning of many of their athletes has made the predictions more difficult. Although the top medal winning countries were as expected, the prediction of the number of medals varied greatly. Using our percent accuracy score, the accuracy ranged from 65% to 90%.

Predicted Gold Medal Tally

Table of top 5 countries with predicted total gold medals won (predictions based on only results)

The best of these predictions was by the website 'Olympic medals predictions', predicting the exact number of gold medals won for Russia and Germany, mainly underestimating the UK medal haul (as many did).

rank Actual Results Olympic medals predictions Gracenote Nielsen Barra ATASS Sports Cazeneuve-SI AOC Benchmark
    4 Aug 2016 3 Aug 2016 1 Aug 2016 Dec 2015 5 Aug 2016 29 July 2016 17 Dec 2014
1 USA (46) 50 (+9%) 38 (-17%) 36 (-22%) 35 (-24%) 42 (-9%) 45 (-2%) 35 (-24%)
2 Great Britain (27) 18 (-33%) 18 (-33%) 19 (-30%) 16 (-41%) 18 (-33%) 16 (-41%) 15 (-44%)
3 China (26) 30 (+15%) 29 (+12%) 31 (+19%) 32 (+32%) 32 (+23%) 45 (+73%) 39 (+50%)
4 Russia (19) 19 (0%) 15 (-21%) 19 (0%) 23 (+23%) 13 (-32%) 14 (-26%) 25 (+32%)
5 Germany (17) 17 (0%) 16 (-6%) 13 (-24%) 16 (-6%) 13 (-24%) 14 (-18%) 13 (-24%)
  percent accuracy score 89% 82% 81% 77% 76% 68% 65%

Table of top 5 countries with predicted total gold medals won (predictions based on factors other than just results)

Of these predictions using information other than just sports results, the Tuck School prediction model performed best. This forecasting model incorporates four factors: measures of available resources, population and per capita income, as well as the share of medals in the most recent Summer Olympics and a host effect.

rank Actual Results Gonzales (Tuck School) Goldman Sachs WSJ Kuper et al.
    July 2016 July 2016 28 July 2016 14 July 2016
1 USA (46) 48 (+4%) 45 (-2%) 42 (-9%) 35 (-24%)
2 Great Britain (27) 30 (+11%) 23 (-15%) 16 (-41%) 17 (-37%)
3 China (26) 38 (+46%) 36 (+38%) 35 (+35%) 35 (+35%)
4 Russia (19) 18 (-5%) 14 (-26%) 16 (-16%) 24 (+26%)
5 Germany (17) 13 (-24%) 12 (-29%) 15 (-12%) 12 (-29%)
  percent accuracy score 82% 78% 78% 70%

Predicted Total Medal Tally

These medal tally predictions below were based on scientific analysis, recent results, or a combination of both - resulting in large variations between lists. As with the gold medal tally predictions above, the USA was generally tipped (correctly) to finish on top. The best predictions are from Bredtmann et al., Brian Cazeneuve (Sports Illustrated), and Goldman Sachs.

Table of top 5 countries with predicted total medals won (predictions based only on sports results)

The leading prediction here was by Brian Cazeneuve of Sports Illustrated, who used predictions of each medal event based on recent results.

rank actual results Cazeneuve-SI Olympic medals predictions ATASS Sports Nielsen Gracenote AOC Benchmark Barra
    29 July 2016 4 Aug 2016 5 Aug 2016 1 Aug 2016 3 Aug 2016 17 Dec 2014 Dec 2015
1 USA (121) 118 (-2%) 104 (-14%) 105 (-13%) 97 (-20%) 88 (-27%) 66 (-45%) 82 (-32%)
2 China (70) 85 (+21%) 66 (-6%) 75 (+7%) 83 (+19%) 71 (+1%) 79 (+13%) 94 (+34%)
3 Great Britain (67) 53 (-21%) 53 (-21%) 55 (-18%) 51 (-24%) 56 (-16%) 45 (-33%) 52 (-22%)
4 Russia (56) 59 (+5%) 55 (-2%) 38 (-32%) 53 (-5%) 42 (-25%) 60 (+7%) 70 (+25%)
5 Germany (42) 47 (+12%) 52 (+24%) 42 (0%) 49 (+17%) 51 (+21%) 45 (+7%) 48 (+14%)
  percent accuracy score 88% 87% 86% 83% 82% 79% 74%

Table of top 5 countries with predicted total medals won (predictions based on factors other than just results)

The predictions by economists Bredtmann et al. and Goldman Sachs gave the best accuracy of these predictions. Both of these do not use any previous sports results, using instead economic models to make their predictions.

rank actual results Bredtmann et al. Goldman Sachs Gonzales (Tuck School) WSJ PwC Kuper et al. Forrest et al.
    Aug 2016 July 2016 July 2016 28 July 2016 June 2016 14 July 2016 3 Aug 2016
1 USA (121) 100 (-17%) 106 (-12%) 105 (-13%) 101 (-17%) 108 (-11%) 102 (-16%) 99 (-18%)
2 China (70) 86 (+23%) 89 (+27%) 89 (+27%) 82 (+17%) 98 (+40%) 74 (+6%) 90 (+29%)
3 Great Britain (67) 64 (-4%) 59 (-12%) 67 (0%) 52 (-22%) 52 (-22%) 43 (-36%) 51 (-24%)
4 Russia (56) 53 (-5%) 58 (+4%) 62 (+11%) 51 (-9%) 70 (+25%) 83 (+48%) 42 (-25%)
5 Germany (42) 43 (+2%) 46 (+10%) 48 (+14%) 51 (+21%) 40 (-5%) 41 (-2%) 36 (-14%)
  percent accuracy score 90% 87% 87% 83% 79% 78% 78%

See the top 10 predictions for Rio 2016 for details about the source of each prediction. See also more details of the prediction models.

Related Pages