Various commentators are predicting a record medal haul for Australia in Beijing. However, we all know that what drives medal counts is economics above all else. Countries that have high GDP and also a high level of public and private resources devoted to Olympic sports do the best. Daniel Gross discusses the predictions for 2008 and is sceptical given the failure of economic models to predict outcomes in 2004. According to a 2008 update of these studies by Price Waterhouse, Australia will reduce its total medals from 49 to 41 this Olympics. But it is OK, we will still be ranked number 5 and in per capita terms, well …
So I think that there is one critical variable not really included in the study — actual public expenditure on sports. Australia massively increased this prior to 2000 (we didn’t want another Canada in 1976 outcome for all those billions on the event, did we?). But the study doesn’t collect this data. Instead, it uses prior medal hauls as a predictor which partially captures this effect. So my guess is that Australia’s total medal count will be the same or just a little lower, say 48; but I admit I am guessing a bit here.
In other news, thank goodness, Dave Barry is in China:
China is the world’s most populous nation, with a population of more than 1.3 billion, making it home to one out of every four people on Earth. Think about what that means. It means that if you belong to a family of four, one of you lives here. (To find out if it’s you, check your driver’s license.)