Olympic medals: can David still beat Goliath?

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With the start of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, interest is rising in the likely medal tallies of different countries.

As a contribution to this debate, PwC has conducted an analysis of the key factors of past Olympic performance and used this to produce some benchmarks against which performance at the 2012 Olympics can be judged.

This updates similar analysis we produced around the time of the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

The analysis predicts that Russia will maintain its Bejing 2008 ranking of third in the world by total medals won (68) – ahead of London 2012 hosts Great Britain (54), but behind China (87) and the USA (113).

So what factors are statistically significant in explaining how the medals are shared out by the competing countries at the Olympic Games? We believe there are four:

  • Population
  • Average income levels
  • Whether the country was previously part of the former Soviet/communist bloc (including Cuba and China),
    and
  • Whether the country is the host nation.

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 at the top of the medal table.

And could 'home advantage' - enjoyed in the past by both China in Beijing and Australia in Sydney –provide a competitive edge for hosts Great Britain?

Take a look at the full report to get some fascinating insights into how the medals could be shared out this year.

 
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