Who Will Win the Most Medals in the 2012 Summer Olympics?

(Photo: momopeche)

Dan Johnson, an economist at Colorado College, has been predicting Olympic medal counts for years with a model that uses metrics like population count, income per capita, and home-country advantage. In the past six Olympics, his model has a correlation of 93 percent between predictions and actual medal counts, and 85 percent for gold medals.

For the Games in London this summer, Johnson predicts that the U.S. Will be the top medal winner, followed by China, Russia, then Britain — the same order they finished in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Of course, no one wants to hear that their country won’t be at the top of the podium. But Johnson explains in a press release why such a projection might be helpful, and also why you should cheer for the underdog:

We all have expectations about how our own nation, or other nations, will perform so we attempt to quantify those  expectations, so that each nation can celebrate victory if they exceed the model’s predictions. For a small nation, winning three medals is an amazing accomplishment. For the U.S. or Germany or Russia, it’s appropriate to expect a lot more. “How much more?” That’s where the model comes in.

The Olympics are a celebration of the exceptional, and the fact that an economic model can predict medal counts so accurately simply points to the fact that there are underlying patterns that favor certain nations over others. I watch for excellence, wherever it occurs, and I cheer most loudly where it is unpredicted.

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  1. Mike B says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  2. Stefan K. says:

    Mr. Johnsons predictions might not be as good as they look on first seight:

    http://leastthing.blogspot.com/2012/03/accuracy-and-skill-in-predicting.html

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  3. Ryan says:

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    • Mango Punch says:

      More likely is that Ryan doesn’t understand statistics and didn’t notice that the article is in layman’s terms and based on a peer reviewed paper.

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      • ryan says:

        Clearly, Mango doesn’t know statistics because I am correct on what I said.

        How does aiming at paper at layman excuse methodological & statistical errors? It makes it worse.

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  4. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for sharing, very interesting indeed. I will make a point of checking up on these predictions after the London Olympics.

    Just a quick general thought: If you guys offered “flattr”, that would be a nice way to contribute to the good work all of you do. I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog and would like the option to show some appreciation.

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    • MW says:

      How well do these models compare with, for example, an Olympic sports reporter’s predictions? Without knowing how hard it is to predict the results, we can’t really tell whether 93% is good or not. For example if I predicted sun rise times for the next week and had correlation coefficient of 0.93, I’d be doing very poorly.

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  5. Allan says:

    Jamaica will win most track and field medals. Ok not quite but we will win most per capita of population for sure

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  6. wasserball says:

    Spell check got it wrong. Will should not have been capitalized after S.

    For the Games in London this summer, Johnson predicts that the U.S. Will be the top medal winner, followed by China, Russia, then Britain

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  7. Axel says:

    i say mexico would

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