LONDON 2012 OLYMPICS

Before the start of the London 2012 Olympics, we set our Sports Research Team a challenge to model the medal distribution across the different games. We predicted Great Britain would walk away with 66 medals, and were most likely to score fourth in the London 2012 Olympics Medal Rankings:

Average Medal Table
(top 20 only to 2 decimal places)
What happened
Ctry Gold Silver Bronze Total Gold Silver Bronze Total
chn 34.46 24.98 22.56 82 38 27 23 88
usa 33.99 28.89 28.74 91.6 46 29 29 104
rus 29.11 27.14 27.97 84.2 24 26 32 82
gbr 23.77 22.46 20.11 66.3 29 17 19 65
ger 17.39 16.58 16.96 50.9 11 19 14 44
aus 12.64 14.42 14.97 42 7 16 12 35
fra 11.64 12.98 16.30 40.9 11 11 12 34
jpn 9.19 9.94 11.4 30.5 7 14 17 38
ita 8.64 8.23 8.96 25.8 8 9 11 28
kor 7.15 7.98 9.76 24.9 13 8 7 28
ken 6.29 4.93 4.58 15.8 2 4 5 11
blr 5.52 5.15 6.53 17.2 2 5 5 12
ned 5.01 4.65 5.66 15.3 6 6 8 20
bra 4.86 4.05 6.02 14.9 3 5 9 17
nzl 4.70 3.38 3.36 11.4 6 2 5 13
ukr 4.24 4.47 6.01 14.7 6 5 9 20
jam 4.14 3.89 3.50 11.5 4 4 4 12
esp 3.77 4.75 5.62 14.1 3 10 4 17
aze 3.76 3.69 6.21 13.7 2 2 6 10
cze 3.51 2.95 3.03 9.5 4 3 3 10

We predicted that USA and China had an almost exactly equal chance to win the medal table rankings, with the USA team nearly 10 times more likely to finish with the higher total of medals of any colour than China. The USA came out top of the two in the end, taking home a very impressive 104 medals in total.

We made GBR’s most likely finishing position in the medal table 4th, with Russia most likely to be 3rd. In fact the countries finished the other way around in the final table, due to GBR’s golds – the total medals expected for each country was remarkably close.

GBR’s hopes of world domination were roughly 1 in 250, and we had about the same chance of winning the table as that of finishing 7th or lower.

In alphabetical order, we thought GBR’s 10 best hopes for gold were as detailed below. Each of these events had greater (sometimes much greater) than 50/50 chance of winning:

  • Athletics – Women’s Heptathlon
  • Boxing – Women’s 75kg
  • Cycling – Women’s team pursuit
  • Cycling – Men’s team pursuit
  • Cycling – Women’s Individual Sprint
  • Cycling – Women’s BMX
  • Rowing – Men’s four
  • Rowing – Women’s quad sculls
  • Sailing – Finn class
  • Triathlon – Men’s

We also looked into the chances of GBR hitting the publicly stated GBR medal targets:

  • 4th or above in the medal table 89%; came 3rd
  • Total medals of 48 or above 98%; won 66 medals in total
  • 8 Athletics medals of any colour 21%; 6 were won in total
  • 6 Swimming medals of any colour 86%; 3 were won in total

So, not surprisingly, the overall targets indicate great success by the end of the 2012 games: after all, who sets targets you can’t reach?