Math Model Helps Predict Olympic Medal Winners

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Researchers used economic principles to predict which countries would win the most medals at the London Olympic Games. The study was 95 percent accurate for the 2008 games. And this time around, it was 97.7 percent accurate.


And that brings us to our last word in business, which is medal futures. We're talking about Olympic medals. Before the London Games, we spoke to Emily Williams. She's a researcher from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.


She was part of a team that used economic principles to predict which countries would win the most medals at the Games. Now she's doing the tally on the actual results.

EMILY WILLIAMS: So the U.S. won the most gold and the most overall.

MONTAGNE: A total of 104 medals for the U.S., 46 of them gold.

GREENE: Now that is a little off from what the Tuck team predicted. Their formula showed that China would take home the most gold medals. Still, a lot of other predictions were spot on, thanks to a mathematical model that considered four factors.

WILLIAMS: The first one is population. The second one is GDP per capita, which is resource per person. The third one is how you did in the previous Olympics. And finally, we have the host effect.

MONTAGNE: The host effect is the home field advantage for the host country. In this 2012 Games, Great Britain, of course. The study was 95 percent accurate for the 2008 Games.

GREENE: And as for this time around for the Summer 2012 Olympics, it was 97 percent accurate.

MONTAGNE: Which gives us, I guess, David, a last chance to say, what do you think, a gold?

GREENE: A gold medal in our book, Renee.

MONTAGNE: OK. That's the business news on MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

GREENE: And I'm David Greene.


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