Want Olympic gold? Show me the money

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2012, 12:00am


With the London Olympics kicking off next week, it is time to speculate on the medal table. According to a report by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, wealthy nations such as the US, China, Russia and host country Britain will take the lead.

PwC has used financial and political factors to predict the medal table of Olympic Games in 2000 in Sydney, Athens in 2004, Beijing in 2008 and now the outcome in London.

The report believes that among the 958 medals up for grabs in London, the top 30 countries will win about 80 per cent, while the remaining countries will take what's left over. This is in line with the global economy, where the top 30 countries account for more than 80 per cent of world gross domestic product.

The PwC analysis believes the number of medals won by each country is determined by population, average income measured by GDP per capita and whether the country has a stated policy to promote sport and whether it is a hosting country. This may explain why it tips the US, China and Russia to be in the top three.

The US, the largest economy in the world with a lot of corporate sponsorship, will still be top of the chart with 113 medals, up from 110 in Beijing, the report predicts.

China, with the world's largest population and now the world's second-largest economy, is tipped to be number two with 87 medals, down from 100 in 2008 when Beijing was the host.

The host country Britain will win 54 medals to take fourth place, up from 47 in 2008.

The PwC study found hosting countries received a boost in the number of medals won. China, for example, won only 63 medals at the Athens Olympics in 2004 but 100 when it played host in 2008.

Australia won 58 medals at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 when it was the host country, compared with 49 in Athens and 46 in Beijing.

The report believes Russia, which traditionally has state planning in sport, will take third place with 68 medals in London, down from 73 in Beijing. This is because the country has put in less effort to boost sport in recent years.

The study confirms population and economic power do matter in determining Olympic medals. But India is an odd case.

It has the world's second-largest population and also a rapidly growing economy. But it is a significant underperformer and won only three medals in Beijing, though that was a big improvement from just one in Athens and Sydney.

This year, PwC believes India may be able to get five or six medals.

The report says the poor performance may be because India, besides hockey, focuses on sports that are not included in the Olympics. This is in contrast to China, where the state specifically trains talent for sports that are Olympic events.