Predicted Medal Tables
There are numerous systems for ranking the success of countries at the Olympics, usually based on actual results at each Olympic Games. Described below is examples of methods used for ranking countries based on prediction modelling of expected results.
There are two main categories of predictions. One is from scholars using economics and a range of factors to base their predictions. The other is predictions based on competition results leading up to the Olympics, such as those by the Virtual Medal Tracker, which use recent results to predict the specific winners of each event.
The predictions are coming in for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Again it is predicted the USA will top the medal tally.
Did everyone predict the US would top the medal tally in 2012? See who was predicted to win in 2012.
Predictors for 2016
- Gracenote Sports (previously Infostrada Sports) Olympic Medal Tracker — This popular medal table prediction can be seen in many media outlets, as a partnership with Infostrada Sports. This predictor uses an algorithm to rank athletes and teams in each Olympic event based on recent competition results, and is regularly updated leading up to the Games. These predictions have been compared for 2012 and 2016. See also changes over time of the Gracenote medal predictions
- Luciano Barra - a former sports managing director of the Italian National Olympic Committee and deputy chief executive of the 2006 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Turin, and a reputation as being an accurate predictor of Olympic success. Barra calls his medal counts as "projections, not predictions". His projections are based on the results of recent world championships and will be updated as the Games near. His list has been compared for 2012 and 2016.
- Noland & Kevin Stahler: this prediction is based on modelling using previous results. Reference: Marcus Noland and Kevin Stahler, Asian Participation and Performance at the Olympic Games, Innovation and Economic Growth Series, No. 4, May 2015. Prediction data is listed for 2016.
- Bredtmann et al. - Julia Bredtmann, Carsten J. Crede and Sebastian Otten, Chair for Empirical Economics, Dept. of Economics, Ruhr University Bochum RWI Essen - these economists at Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany have used economic models to predict the medal winners since 2004. Their predictions have been compared for 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016.
- Kuper et al. - predictions by Gerard H. Kuper, Fabian ten Kate and Elmer Sterken of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, using an "econometric" approach. They consider three factors: the results of the World Championships in the year before the Olympic Games, the number of athletes per country determined as a proportion of the total number of participants, and a factor considering home advantage. More details on their website. Their predictions have been compared for 2016.
- Benchmark Analysis — these results are from analysis by the Australian Olympic Committee which predicted Olympic Games medal rankings in 2012 and 2016 based on results in World Championships, World Cups and other major international events held in the previous years. In 2012, the actual number of Olympic medals were not predicted, just the medal rank order. These predictions have been compared for 2012 and 2016.
Medal Predictors - from previous years
- Wall Street Journal - using analysis which is part subjective reporting, part statistics and part computer simulation. The WSJ factored in opinions of athletes and experts and the results from recent performances. But rather than simply allocating each place finisher in every event, they used this information to come up with a probability that any Olympic contender will win. Their list has been compared for 2012.
- Dan Johnson — a prediction model provided by this professor of economics at Colorado College. The model includes only non-athletic data. Historically, the prediction model included these five key variables: income per capita, population, political structure, climate, and a host nation advantage and using data from every participating nation since 1952. The model was updated for the 2012 predictions, removing political structure and climate factors and adding a host nation effect and a "nation-specific cultural effect". His predictions have been compared for 2004, 2008 and 2012.
- Emily Williams — Williams is a recent graduate of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. She published online predictions for 2012 based on the model formula originally presented by Bernard and Busse, which contains four factors: population, GDP per capita, previous medal share and whether you are a host or not. These predictions have been compared for 2012.
- Meghan Busse — Busse is a co-author with Andrew Bernard who have provided previous prediction models. Busse is from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in the US, and this prediction of the total medals to be won at the London Olympics is based solely on population and GDP per head. Her predictions have been compared for 2012.
- Sports Myriad — another prediction based on predicting individual medalists like the Medal Tracker above, by Beau Dure. Sports Myriad shifts though each sport and projects the winners in London, based on past results. The list is regularly updated based on recent data such as results in World Cups and World Championships leading up to the Games. These predictions have been compared for 2012.
- Price WaterhouseCoopers — PwC developed a medal prediction model published in "Modelling Olympic performance - Economic briefing paper" from June 2012. The model is based on the following factors: Population; Average income levels (measured by GDP per capita at PPP exchange rates); Whether the country was previously part of the former Soviet bloc (including Cuba in this case); Whether the country is the host nation; and Medal shares in the previous Olympic Games. PwC only predicted total medal count, not gold medals as many of the other predictions have done. These predictions have been compared for 2012.
- Goldman Sachs - Analysts José Ursúa and Kamakshya Trivedi used econometric models to forecast country-by-country medal count based on previous Olympic performance and economic growth. These predictions have been compared for 2012.
- Brian Cazeneuve - a writer from Sports Illustrated, created a prediction list prior to the 2012 Olympics. These predictions have been compared for 2012.
- Andrew B. Bernard of the Tuck School at Dartmouth. A forecasting model incorporating 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. His research publications include: Bernard A.B and Busse, M, "Who Wins the Olympic Games: Economics Resources and Medal Totals," The Review of Economics and Statistics, 2004, Vol 86. No. 1. More information is available at mba.tuck.dartmouth.edu/andrew.bernard/Olympicmedals.htm. His predictions have been compared for 2000, 2004, 2008.
How Good are the Predictions?
Having predictions from previous Olympic Games leads to another method of ranking - you can rank countries based on actual results compared to that predicted. These would not necessarily be the most success countries, but those that performed much better than expected. We have used the prediction results of those listed below to compare to the actual lists from the last few Olympics.
See the predictions and how they compared side by side with actual results for the 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 Olympic Games. We are also doing an analysis of the prediction to see which methods or people are best at predicting the medal table.
- Bredtmann, J., Crede, C. J. and Otten, S. (2016), Olympic medals: Does the past predict the future?. Significance, 13: 22–25. doi: 10.1111/j.1740-9713.2016.00915.x
- Johnson D. & A. Ali (2004), A Tale of Two Seasons: Participation and Medal Counts at the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, Social Science Quarterly, 85 (4), 974-93
- Andrew B. Bernard and Meghan R. Busse, (2004) "Who Wins the Olympic Games: Economic Resources and Medal Totals", Review of Economics and Statistics, Vol. 86, no.1.
- Bian, X. 2005. Predicting Olympic medal counts: The effects of economic development on Olympic performance. The Park Place Economist, XIII: 37–44.
- CONCLUSION: Consistent with previous studies on national Olympic performance, this paper found that socioeconomic variables, including population size, economic resources, hosting advantage, and political structure have a significant impact on a country's Olympic performance. In general, population size and economic resources are positively correlated with medal counts. The larger the population size, the more likely a country is going to do better in the Olympics; the richer a country is, the more Olympic medals it will likely win. Being a hosting nation and having a communist background both have a favorable influence on a country's Olympic performance.
- Summer Olympics medal predictions for 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016
- analysis method for predicted medal tables
- My 2012 Gold Medal Table Prediction
- about Olympic Medal Ranking Systems
- Comparison of demographic and weighted ranking systems.
- medal tables from all Olympic Games