2012 medal projection redux: What we learned

Update: This is now adjusted to reflect our first doping case: Belarus loses gold, New Zealand up to gold, Russia up to silver, China up to bronze. That’s one more medal for China.

When we started, I said I thought the Wall Street Journal had the best projection model. I’d say they were pretty close.

Here’s the table, updated with the “actual” column:

Table 32 – Sheet1


I added up the differences between the actual and each of the picks for these 10 countries. Here’s what I wound up with:

  • 32: Wall Street Journal
  • 38: Sports Illustrated
  • 55: SportsMyriad
  • 58: Infostrada/USA TODAY
  • 58: Tuck School of Business model
  • 79: Johnson/Colorado College model
It’s a band of pastry chefs! No, wait — those are American gold medalists. Look, enough with the designers — the next Olympic uniforms should be designed by Levi Strauss.

So what have we learned?

1. It pays to go sport-by-sport. Call it the philosophy major’s revenge over the economists. (Kidding!)

2. As expected, the WSJ effort’s to factor in probabilities paid off pretty well.

3. SI’s pretty good at this.

4. I put too much faith in the home-country bump. But I had a feeling that would be the case.

One more bit of numbers to toss out: How far off was I in predicting gold medals? Let’s take a look:

Overprojected: USA 9, Japan 7, Australia 6, Kenya 4. Tied at 3: Greece, Slovakia, Iran, Britain.

Underprojected: South Korea 5, Hungary 5, France 4, North Korea 4. Tied at 3: China, Kazakhstan, Cuba, South Africa.

Want to dig into any more numbers? Knock yourself out.

The fun part: This is only the beginning. I’ve compiled too much data to stop now. I’m going to start building out pages on Olympic sports with the goal that we’ll know roughly what to expect in World Championships. Then we’ll adjust those pages with World Championship results so that we can rev up in 2015 with projections for 2016.

And I’ll do the same for winter sports. We have considerably fewer of those.

Only 543 days until Sochi!

Update: The WSJ is pretty happy with its projections.

Published by

Beau Dure

The guy who wrote a bunch of soccer books and now runs a Gen X-themed podcast while substitute teaching and continuing to write freelance stuff.

6 thoughts on “2012 medal projection redux: What we learned”

  1. Not that I want to be politically incorrect…

    The Los Angeles Times had an interesting front page article about the gender breakdown of USA Gold medal winners. Of the 46 Gold medals the USA won, 29 were won by women and 17 were won by men. According to the Times most of the USA medals were won by women, as were the PRC medals and evidently the Russian medals. it would be interesting to see the medal counts broken down by gender for all the olympic events.

    Somebody wrote in the comments section:

    “All that this medal disparity says is that there is a great deal more international parity in men’s sports. The U.S. (yes thanks to Title IX) places a great deal more emphasis on women’s sport than almost all other countries in the world. It’s not that U.S. women are better than U.S. men. It’s that U.S. women face far less competition relative to the men…”

  2. According to Medalspercapita.com, Grenada won the 2012 Summer Olympics on the strength of ONE Gold medal. Jamaica came in second in the medals per capita list, the Bahamas came in second in the Gold Medals per capita list..

  3. I plan to write about the gender equity/Title IX thing in a day or so.

    A preview: I’m not comfortable with the “Yay, the U.S. women won much more than the men!” meme. Maybe it’s just because if the U.S. men had matched the women’s medal haul, my projections would’ve been correct.

    But before we all point to Title IX, there’s another thing to consider. Other countries have pro women’s leagues in a ton of sports — basketball, volleyball, soccer among them. We don’t.

  4. Home town bump – I think that this manifested itself more in converting bronzes into silvers and silvers into golds rather than swathes of extra medals. In the most recent world championships or equivalent in the olympic disciplines GB had won 21 golds, 28 silvers and 12 bronzes (excluding tennis) so a basis in line with the results in London.

    It’s also worth noting that a third of the difference between your projections and the actual results can be accounted for by the disappointing results from the swimming team who failed to repeat their world championship and trials performances.

  5. Russia is second in the myriad projections, so they are second on the final listing notwithstanding the official results…

    Russia did recover to third or fourth place after a terrible start and ended up with more medals than at the 2008 Olympics. They won 15 medals on August 11, day 15 of the games. China was on top at the midpoint of the games but faded in the last few days.

    The USA came nowhere near 55 Gold Medals. If the USA women had not performed so strongly and only did as well as the USA men, the USA gold medal total would have been about the same as in the 2000 to 2008 Olympics (34-37 gold) instead of 46, which is the most since 1984.

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