2012 medal projections

Update: I’ve added a column for “actual” now that the Games are done, and I’ve posted a recap of what we learned.

To recap for newcomers: I went event-by-event through results from competitions in the past Olympic cycle. Please read the 2012 medal projections category (update: or follow the links below) to see each event in vivid detail.

And please do leave questions and comments, here and on all the posts for each sport. I like feedback, crowd-sourcing (if you know that so-and-so from Tajikistan just broke his ankle and won’t compete, please pass it along) and polite argument.

These projections reflect the updates made in July. If you want to see the way the projections stood after the fall 2010-summer 2011 roundup, check the archive page. If you want to see how they compare to other projections, see the mega-meta comparison.

Medal count by country, sortable and searchable:

Table 31 – Sheet1

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Want to see the details for each sport? Enjoy:

– Targets: Archery, Shooting

– Transportation: Canoe/kayak, CyclingEquestrianRowing, Sailing

– Water: Diving, Swimming/Synchro (see Water polo below)

– Races: Athletics (track and field), Modern pentathlon/Triathlon

– Combat/strength: Boxing, Fencing, Judo, Taekwondo, Wrestling, Weightlifting

– Nets: Badminton, Tennis/Table tennis

Gymnastics (artistic, rhythmic, trampoline)

Ball sports (Basketball, Beach volleyball, Field hockey, Team handball, Soccer, Volleyball, Water polo)

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45 thoughts on “2012 medal projections

  1. I think that you are getting it wrong for Montenegro.I think that Montenegro is pretty sure to win 3 medals in Female Handball,Water Polo and Judo.Will that be golden,silver or bronze ones?I dont know.

  2. I’m planning something along those lines, but I’m unlikely to reveal the new numbers for another couple of weeks.

  3. I do. China got a big boost from being at home in 2008, and countries typical revert to the norm after that.

  4. “China got a big boost from being at home in 2008, and countries typical revert to the norm after that.”

    I beg to differ. I don’t think there is any such thing as a “norm”. Countries with strong Olympic sports programs do well and countries with weak programs don’t do so good.

    Exhibit A is the old Soviet Union. I could also mention East Germany, but I know where that is going to lead to…

    The successor nations to these do not support their Olympic programs as well, if at all, and as a result have not done as well.

  5. Jason – It was really a year. I’ve been doing the new projections over the past two weeks, and I finally counted up the numbers yesterday.

    I can’t really explain why Britain would have jumped so much from the 2011 projection to this month’s, but it might have something to do with athletes gearing up for the Games and posting solid performances in World Championships.

  6. Beau – Glad to see you did this update. For the US to get 55 Golds…alot of things will have to fall into place just right. BTW…There is a recent article done by the Wall Street Journal that gives their projections.

    I’ll track your picks as the games progress. Should be fun.

  7. Hello Beau, thanks for your work on this. Interesting website is http://www.oddschecker.com/olympics-2012.html, here you can find the betting odds of the professional UK betting agencies. For the first time they are covering all the olympic events (interesting article in the WSJ about this as well). Maybe you can make some money now after all this hard work…….

  8. … I’m doing fantasy Olympics this year (I know?!) and i have some experience working with statistics. Although the trends aren’t as consistent between month-to-month data – and there’s a major human element to consider – your points on China are valid. If you look at the data, the most consistent country is South Korea since 1996 in terms of medalling. China is one of the most “volatile.” Thanks for the data!

  9. I’d love to see those stats! I’m not surprised South Korea is more consistent than China. China goes through waves of success, sometimes under suspicious circumstances.

  10. If I may be so bold as to express a dissenting opinion about the Olympics and this nonsense about “medal counts” that has gone on since it’s inception, it is that it doesn’t reflect a true picture of “national strenght”.

    I’m of that minority, maybe even a minority of one, that thinks Jamaica “won” the 2008 Summer Olympics based on population demographics. I remember seeing a website at the time that statistically argued just that.

  11. I remember seeing that, too. Wonder if I could find it today.

    You can get an anomaly, though — Liechtenstein surely “won” the Winter Games back in the days of Hanni Wenzel.

    I’m thinking India would be near the bottom.

  12. My second attempt at posting this comment. Looks like my first attempt disappeared.

    You REALLY believe the US is going to win 55 Gold Medals? You are setting yourself up for a fall. Since the 1984 Summer Olympics, the US only won more that 40 Golds in the 1996 Atlanta Games (on US soil obviously) with 44 Golds. 1988, 1992, 2000, 2004, 2008 were all 35, 36, or 37.

    Using your own comment about “norms” the US shouldn’t win more than 37 golds since these games aren’t in the US. If the USA wins more than 40 golds it would be a superlative performance for the US given
    recent showings in Olympics not held in the USA.

    I agree that China will be down from 2008 probably to about 40 golds. China wins its gold medals primarily in women’s events, something the rest of the world is relatively weak at due to indifference about if not complete hostility towards women playing sports.

    FYI, the last country to win 55 golds was the USSR in 1988.

    I’m not even going to comment on the idea of Britain winning 32 gold medals. That’s even crazier than the USA winning 55 gold medals.

  13. Joshua — Right. I think my method is overcounting a couple of countries. If you see the mega-meta-comparison, I elaborate. If I’d done probabilities per event, as the WSJ did, I’d probably be a little closer.

    Where equal, I tended to give the UK athletes the benefit of the doubt. But that really means in a heads-up comparison with another contender, the UK athlete has maybe a 55 percent chance of winning. In each individual event, I’m OK with that. Overall, a lot of those predictions are bound not to come true.

    On the flip side, we’ll see a few surprises — every Olympics host gets a few athletes who never match their accomplishments before or after the Games — but probably not enough to make up the numbers I’m projecting.

    All that said, I bet I’m closer than Infostrada.

  14. 55 gold for US and 78 medals for GB? I think both countries will do really well, but this prediction is just a bridge too far. Every GB medal hopeful will have to perform the performance of their lives in order to almost double GB’s medal count from Beijing. I also very much doubt Japan will rank so high in the list, although they do have formidable swimmers and gymnastic team this Olympics.

  15. Not really — check the daily recaps (see “Olympic Daily Glance” above). China’s doing a bit better than projected and Britain’s doing a bit worse. But so far, the USA is right on track, as are most countries.

  16. Wow, it looks like the US will be crushed by China eventually. Can you reply with updated guidance? Is the US on track? Is China for real? Please reply.

  17. Check my daily glances — you may see the links here, or just go to SportsMyriad.com’s home page.

    Right now, China is running four medals ahead of my projection. But so is the USA.

  18. We are past the half way mark.

    How do your projections hold up? Not so bad really. I still don’t think the USA will get 55 Gold Medals. You undercounted China badly. They already have 30 of the 35 golds you were projecting for them and barring a collapse they will get more than 100 medals in these games as should the USA.

    I am impressed with Britain. They will do better than 2008. Got to go back to 1908 to find better than now.

    Russia has collapsed as an Olympic power. If the USA gets more than 50 Gold medals it would primarily be due to the decline of Russia.

    Kazakhstan has won 6 gold medals? Where’s Borat?

  19. What is happening to Russia? They are getting tons of medals but just can’t seem to net the gold.

    Japan has also downcasted its gold projection from 15 to 10. China and Korea, on the other hand, are doing not bad at all.

    GB is having a huge Olympics but I don’t think they will get to 78 medals, although BBC is projection 95 (sheer madness).

    Your predictions in the athletics are almost bang on so far.

  20. Russia is only a shadow of what they used to be as an Olympic power..

    Britain’s rise was the result of a long term effort stretching back many years. When Britain placed fourth in the 2008 Olympic Medal standings, it was the best result in a century. When I read that they were shooting for third place in the London Games, I thought they were nuts. My image of Britain is still from what it was in the 1970’s, a failing bankrupt nation. A high placement in the Olympics does help a nation’s image to the rest of the world.

    Same thing with Russia, but in the opposite direction. In spite of the bare chested sportman image it’s President projects, every succeeding Olympics shows weaker and weaker results. The Soviet sports machine Russia inherited is going kapute.

  21. It’s obvious by now that China and USA will fight for first.

    What about 3rd place though? Russia usually fills that spot but GB is doing great. GB is only two medals ahead of Russia atm though.

    And Japan, many medals but only two golds, I was expecting more. What happened?

  22. GB will likely finish with more gold medals but less overall than Russia. It seems why you host Olympics you are likely to net a lot of gold.

    Japan has been having a very interesting Olympics. Her team has been the strongest in terms of swimming and gymnastics. But in those sports the gold usually went to USA and other major Olympics powers. Japan usually nets gold in judo, but her judo performances had been simply disastrous this time around. So Japan is gonna finish with more medals than previous Olympics, but less gold, way way less.

  23. Whatever your ranking prediction is. It is interesting to see that based on the total medal counts, the major fighting countries in both Allied & Axis are there within top 10. The major 5 allied: USA, British, Russia, France, & China (was weakest). The major 3 axises: Germany, Japan, and Italy (was weakest). They are now 8 of 10 and China is gaining the most. The remaining 2 of the top 10: Australia, and S. Korea (was weaker). You did okay for the top ten I’d say.

  24. France was not a allied power from 1940 to 1944. “Vichy France” was a “collaborator state” to Nazi Germany in those years. Not an Axis nation because it was partially under German Military Control and later full German military control after 1942. World War One French Military Leader Marshal Philippe Petain was the President of France in those years.

    Reading the Mainland Chinese english media, I get the impression they do not believe they will top the USA in the final medal standing. They emphasis that this the best they have done in an Olympics “outside of China”.

    Looks like about half of the world could care less about the Olympics given their medal standings. India and Indonesia just sent token delegations and made minimal efforts.

    I’m getting a bad feeling about Brazil hosting the 2016 games. Their medal standing is pretty dismal for a big country that will host the next games. Usually a future host nation shows improvement in the standings in the games preceding the one they host. Are they really serious about the Olympics? Or will there be “problems”? My understanding is that FIFA is concerned about “problems” concerning the 2014 World Cup. Brazil is behind schedule. I wonder where things are at for the 2016 Olympics.

  25. With regard to the countries at the top of the medal table I think we’ve seen a clear pattern emerge over the past few olympics of a top group of ten countries. The five largest in Europe – Russia, Britain, Germany, France and Italy. And five from the Pacific Rim – USA, China, Japan, South Korea and Australia. Not surprisingly sporting power is heavily linked to economic power.

  26. The event which sparked the improvement in Britain’s olympic results was their performance in Atlanta in 1996. Britain has a proud olympic record – the only country to win gold medals at every summer games and winners of more medals than any other country apart from the USA, the former USSR and Germany/W Germany – and yet in ’96 they finished with just 15 medals and one gold.

    To a sports mad country this was unacceptable and so began a programme of investment in sports such as cycling, rowing and sailing which had established good practice and had begun to produce good results. Other sports like boxing and hockey began to follow suit and lottery funding is very much performance based. In addition, Britain have probably established themselves as the leaders in sports science working with both the public and private sectors to enhance performance, eg. Formula 1 construction team Maclaren have been major contributors on the technological front.

  27. I hope all the people who said you were way off when it comes to china and us see how close you came, especially regarding medal count. Considering all the variables involved, impressive!

  28. One change to the results I’m afraid. Gold medallist Nadzeya Ostapchuk of Belarus has been disqualified from the women’s shot after failing a doping test. Only consolation is that she is replaced by a great champion in Valerie Adams of New Zealand who is upgraded to gold.

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