There are major studies correlating factors like population, and levels of prosperity (GDP) directly to medal counts in the Olympic Games. These predictions have been amazingly close to reality. But having read many of these studies I am lost for explanation why - despite increasing repression, slight recent reduction in both population and GDP in Iran, decades of sanctions ... why Iran has scored 5x the medals it could muster up only 4 years ago, and 4 more (not quite double) what it mustered 8 years ago. What happened? And by the way, the games are not over!!
Can someone out there share their opinion on this? It just doesn't make sense. Oh, and by the way, the predictions are a little off for 2012, it looks like the US will run away with the medals this year (the models had predicted 102 medals for China), BUT, Britain has done extremely well which was predicted because there is a home venue advantage in the models.
Any way here are some recent olympic medal counts for Iran:
2008 - 2
2004 - 6
2000 - 4
1996 - 3
1992 - 3
1976 - 2
Here are some excerpts from a study conducted by Ruhr University, Bochum Germany.
Using data on the number of medals won by each country at the summer Olympics from 1960 to 2008, we tried to identify the economic, demographic, and cultural factors that explain a country’s Olympic success – and to have a go at making our own predictions for London, too.We settled on a range of indicators based on several sources, including the International Labor Organization and the World Bank. And, in line with findings from previous research, our analysis unsurprisingly indicated that money does indeed play an important role in Olympic success: wealthy countries win more Olympic medals than countries with comparatively low per capita income. Less money, it seems, makes it difficult to operate efficient support systems for talented athletes.
However, there’s more to being at the top than money alone. Populous countries clearly tend to have a larger number of talented athletes than small countries and therefore win, on average, a higher number of medals. But political systems also have an influence on athletic success: countries with socialist systems often dedicate significant resources to the development of top athletes in order to increase their international prestige and distract from domestic political issues. And, to a certain extent, countries with a socialist past still profit from previous investments and receive a higher number of medals even today.
But there’s more. Another factor is the famous home advantage: host countries’ athletes are generally more likely than usual to end up on the podium than if they aren’t hosting. This home advantage kicks in even before the games start as home athletes of the next host reap the benefits of the early expansion of sporting support.
Another factor is the climate of the home country – poor training conditions mean athletes from countries with a more extreme climate are overall at a disadvantage compared with participants from moderate climates, especially in outdoor events. Tropical climates, meanwhile, have been shown to have a particularly adverse impact on athletes’ performance, perhaps due to the high incidence of certain diseases, which undermines the general health level of the population.
Interestingly, though,the medal tallies of men and women over the years offers some insights into gender-specific determinants of Olympic success. Women from countries with emancipated societies, for example, and who are more likely to have equal opportunities in the workforce, typically win a higher number of medals than those who come from patriarchal societies. Female labor force participation rates, fertility rates and the number of years since women were given the right to vote are all factors that can help determine success. Essentially, the more women are free to participate in society and economic life, the more likely they are to be engaged in sports and offered the support they need to become top athletes.
So, based on all this information, who can we expect to come out on top in London? We predict that China will narrowly edge the U.S. in the overall medal tally, with 102 medals compared to 100 for America. Some way back in third place we expect to see Russia, with 71 medals. The British and Brazilian teams, with current and future home team advantage, can be expected to earn 57 and 28 medals, respectively.Of course, the global financial crisis has been a painful reminder of how economic models can have the rug pulled from under them. In addition, while the factors we mentioned offer a useful guide, there are some outliers such as Kenya or Jamaica, whose success at the 2008 Olympic Games wouldn’t have been predicted by the model we used. But one of the great joys of the Olympics is that it’s impossible to control every factor that can lead to success for individuals.
The predictions we have made this year are exactly that – predictions. But although our model isn’t perfect, when applied to the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, the correlation between our prediction and the actual medals table was 97.4 percent and 96.9 percent.All this said, the medals table may ultimately prove of secondary interest. As Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, stated: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part.” But for those of us who will be keeping count, here are our final predictions:
1. China (102 medals), 2. United States (100), 3. Russia (71), 4. UK (57), 5. Australia (43), 6. France (39), 7. Germany (36), 8. South Korea (31), 9. Cuba (29), 10. Brazil (28), 11. Ukraine (28), 12. Italy (27), 13. Japan (27), 14. Belarus (19), 15. Spain (19).
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