Hosting Olympic games boosts medal haul

Alan Nevill

The study found that Great Britain will be no exception when the Olympics come to London in 2012.

Professor Alan Nevill, from the University of Wolverhampton’s Research Institute in Healthcare Science, is one of the authors of the new research to be published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

In a bid to assess how the medal tally is affected, the authors looked at the performance of 16 countries, before, during, and after hosting the games, and analysed each host country’s medals haul since 1948.

The overall tally of medals awarded rose consistently each year, from 411 in 1948 to 958 in 2008.

Every single country increased the number of medals it won while hosting an Olympics compared with the years when it did not host the games, the figures showed.

Averaging out the pattern of wins for all 16 countries showed that the haul was 28 when not hosting the games. This rose to 40 in the run-up to the Olympics, 60 while hosting, and 47 in the aftermath.

Great Britain won 47 medals in Beijing, compared with the 28 it brought back from Sydney in 2000 and the 30 it won in Athens in 2004.

Using a mathematical formula to predict Great Britain’s performance in 2012, the research authors calculate that the haul should be in the region of 63 medals, assuming there are 1000 to win.

China, which won 100 medals in 2008 when it hosted the games, stands to win 78 in 2012, the authors predict.

Home advantage is well known for sports that have a subjective element of judging in them, such as boxing, gymnastics and team games, according to the authors. But this advantage disappears for sports relying on objective judging, such as weightlifting and athletics.

The British government has significantly increased funding for sports since 1997. The total investment up to 2012 amounts to £914 million.

“There can be little doubt that such financial support has been influential in increasing the medals won by Great Britain even before hosting the Olympics,” say the authors. Other countries investing heavily in sports have also done well.

The legacy of hosting the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002 also counted as a “post hosting” benefit, particularly for cycling.

Amid the interminable debates about the benefits of hosting the Olympics, especially during a global financial crisis, Team GB is likely to enjoy ongoing sporting success as a direct result, say the authors.

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[Why Great Britain’s success in Beijing could have been anticipated and why it should continue beyond 2012

Online First Br J Sports Med 2009; doi 10.1136/bjsm.2008.057174]

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