Team USA Predicted To Take The Most Medals

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The Summer Olympics games begin two weeks from Friday in London. It's expected the winners list will look something like this: Team USA will take the most medals, followed by China and then Russia. But China will take the most gold, followed by the U.S.


Some future news now. The Olympics begin two weeks from today in London, and we can already tell you the likely big winners. China will take the most gold medals, followed by the U.S. and host country, Great Britain. Team USA will win the most overall medals, followed by China and Russia.


OK. These are predictions, but their based on a formula to predict medal winners, nearly perfected by the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. This is the fourth time the Tuck School has calculated each country's performance at the Summer Olympics.

EMILY WILLIAMS: In 2008, there was 95 percent accuracy. The model is very precise in determining the rank of countries and sometimes it's spot on with determining the actual medal counts as well.

MONTAGNE: That's researcher Emily Williams. She worked on this year's predictions and she told us about the thinking behind the formula.

WILLIAMS: The idea is based on the concept that athletes are a lot like complex machines. And so the more people a country has, the more complex machines there are, and the more resources that that country has in terms of GDP per capita, the more they can turn these complex machines into Olympic athletes. And also, you know, machines last a while, so it actually performs in one Olympics is going to perform in a few Olympics thereafter. And finally, we have what's called the host effect. So if you perform on your home turf, then you're likely to do better than if you weren't.

MONTAGNE: Now, that host effect appears to be pretty powerful. Williams says it was a factor in China's big sweep in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. She also says it will boost Great Britain's medal count by six gold medals and 15 extra medals overall.

WILLIAMS: That's what the model's telling us, so there's no reason to believe that it's not going to be the case. Interestingly for me, doing the predictions this time around, I discovered a couple of interesting facts. So for example, if you consider the Netherlands and Brazil; they are very different countries. The Netherlands has a very small population in relation to Brazil, and Brazil has a small GDP per capita in relation to the Netherlands. But they, for example, win roughly the same number of medals at the Olympics.

INSKEEP: Those differences all average out and this summer, those countries will take home about 15 medals each.

MONTAGNE: ...According to the medal prediction formula.

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