Olympic stats wizard Bill Mallon has quantified the host-nation bounce, showing that the country that last hosted the Olympics can typically expect to win roughly 70% of the medals it won at home.
The genius of this analysis is that it factors out the growth of the Games (particularly winter) by analyzing the medal count in terms of percentage of medals won. So if the Olympics add 30 events for 2018 (don’t worry — it won’t happen), then sure, Russia could match its Sochi record count. But the percentage of available medals won should drop.
When you’re projecting medals event-by-event, like I do, it’s difficult to account for this bounce. For London and Sochi, I’ve tended to break ties by favoring the home athlete. For London, I overreached, predicting 78 medals for Britain. They got 65. For Russia, I undershot, predicting 26 to an actual 33.
Some of the bounce comes from increased interest at home. Athletes on the verge of retirement stick around to compete. Federations get a bit more sponsorship money.
Some comes from home crowds. Some comes from those crowds affecting the judges. (Looking your way, figure skating folks.)
Brazil has revved up for 2016 with its best-ever medal haul in 2012 — 17 medals. They’ve been in double digits for the last five Games, with 15 in Atlanta 1996 and Beijing 2008.
In 2018, South Korea will surely improve on its total of eight from Sochi. Crowds at the 2002 World Cup turned an average soccer team into a world-beater, and they should have no trouble having the same effect on the speedskaters who underperformed this year.