Predicting The Olympic Winners

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An economist at Colorado College is laying out his predictions for how many medals Team USA, and many other countries, will win in Beijing.

Dan Johnson, Associate Professor of Economics at Colorado College, has tracked statistical trends of medal winning since World War II. Using a mathematical model that computes and weighs five different variables, he says he can get a good picture of what the final medal count will be.

For the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Johnson has made his predictions: USA will win 103 medals, but only 33 gold; China will win 89 medals, keeping 44 gold medals in Beijing. If it comes true, that would mean China ties for the "third most golden nation in history."

By clocking 44 golds, China would also tie the United States for most gold medals won by the host nation (U.S. won 44 golds in Atlanta in 1996)

In the past four Olympics, his system has reportedly proven more than 93% accurate in predicting overall medal figures, and they've been 89% accurate at predicting the number of gold medals alone.

Dan Johnson is no psychic, however. He's got a rigorous system that he puts into play to help him call the shots. Taking into consideration a nation's population, climate, average income, political structure (communist, socialist, democracy) and last, but not least, the all-important "home nation" advantage.

Johnson says from one Olympic games to the next, his mathematical model stays the same, but the data changes. As he plugs in each year's new figures, he's able to use his expertise to weigh the variables, granting each its own amount of importance.

Johnson isn't trying to be a Beijing spoiler, however. He says he's looking at the games just like any economist would, by seeing the bigger picture.

He doesn't predict individual events, nor the outcome for any particular athlete. "There are far too many variables for that," he says. Johnson looks at the overall advantages that certain countries have leading up to the games, and that's what he's trying to make people think about.

"For example," he says, "a poor country in sub-Saharan Africa is not going to be able to afford the facilities or amount of training that countries such as China and the United States can. The cost of sending an entire team to the games alone cost a great amount."

According to Johnson, this gives rich, stable countries an edge when it comes time to compete. However, when all the athletes hit the competition floor, and the world's eyes are watching, anything can happen.

Following his figures, Johnson is counting on the communist China to shine this year. Let's hope he's wrong this time.

To check out Dan Johnson's 2008 Beijing Olympic medal predictions, click on the link below.