Predictions for Winter Olympics: So who will win?

Predictions for Winter Olympics

As the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics draws near, there is growing interest in the likely medal tallies of different countries. In our 2012 Summer Olympic medals paper, we accurately predicted the top four medal winning countries. The question is; can we do it again for the Winter Olympics? Our analysis is based on econometric modelling, where we test the historic relationship between a range of socio-economic metrics and medal success to estimate future medal success.

Russia press home their host advantage

Our model identified a strong positive impact on expected share of total medals from hosting the Winter Olympics, which is demonstrated in Figure 3. Russia are projected to make full use of this advantage at Sochi with a estimated haul of 25 medals, 10 more than their total in 2010.

Table 1: Predictedmedals for Sochi 2014

  Medal rank 2014 medals estimate 2010 medals Change GDP rank (2013)
US 1 35 37 -2 1
Germany 2 26 30 -4 5
Russia 3 25 15 +10 6
Canada 4 23 26 -3 13
Austria 5 22 16 +6 37
Norway 6 21 23 -2 46
China 7 15 11 +4 2
Switzerland =8 10 9 +1 36
Sweden =8 10 11 -1 34
UK =21 2 1 +1 8

The Economy matters – But so does the climate

The modelling results showed that the size of the economy is significant in determining success at the Winter Olympics, with total GDP appearing as a significant variable. However, a large economy is not sufficient on its own for a strong performance – our model also indicated that the climate is an important factor. Snow coverage and the number of ski resorts per head have a significant and positive impact on medal shares.

Larger, developed countries with the right climate dominate the top of our projected medals table, with the top three places taken by the US, Germany and Russia. However, Norway and Austria demonstrate that a smaller economy is not a barrier to success, with a greater estimated medal haul than countries such as China and France.

While this is a light-hearted analysis it makes an important point of how organisations can use economic techniques to help make better business decisions. The purpose of our model is not to forecast medal totals with complete accuracy, but to increase the predictive power of medal projections over and above using historic medal results alone. The model allows us to make better, more confident and more informed forecasts. Businesses can use similar techniques to do the same.

Figure 3: Home advantage in the Winter Olympics

We used regression analysis to produce the results in Table 1, employing a Tobit model to estimate medal share for the 28 countries which have won at least one medal in the last three Winter Olympics. The variables used were total GDP, ski resorts per head, level of snow coverage, medal shares in the previous two Winter Olympics, and dummies for countries with a “tradition” of winter sports and for host countries.

Infographic: Who will take the laurels at the 2014 Winter Olympics?