Economics professor predicts 44 Olympic gold medals for China, 33 for U.S. - Colorado College

Section Links

Other Links


For Immediate Release

Media contact:
Jane Turnis
(719) 389-6138
JTurnis@ColoradoCollege.edu

EDITOR’S NOTE: A full list of Daniel K.N. Johnson’s predictions can be found at http://www.coloradocollege.edu/Olympics. Johnson will not be reachable on Thursday, July 17, but is otherwise available for telephone interviews.

Short video clips of Johnson explaining his findings are available here:
http://www.coloradocollege.edu/multimedia/playVideo.asp?file=olympics/method
http://www.coloradocollege.edu/multimedia/playVideo.asp?file=olympics/accuracy
http://www.coloradocollege.edu/multimedia/playVideo.asp?file=olympics/predictions
http://www.coloradocollege.edu/multimedia/playVideo.asp?file=olympics/botswana

A full-length interview may be linked here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T32W2WaQBMM

ECONOMICS PROFESSOR PREDICTS CHINA WILL TOP
GOLD MEDAL COUNT AT BEIJING SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES

Daniel K.N. Johnson uses formula to foretell success with remarkable accuracy since 1999

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – July 16, 2008 – The world will be hearing China’s national anthem more than that of any other country at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games – a resounding 44 times. China will also win more total medals than ever before with 89, just behind Russia’s 95 and the United States’ 103.

That’s what economics professor Daniel K.N. Johnson predicts this year. The economic formula devised in 1999 by Johnson and a fellow researcher considers only per-capita income, population, climate, political structure and home-nation advantage – with absolutely no information about individual athletes or competitions – to forecast the number of medals a country will win for the upcoming Olympic Games.

“We use no information about athletes, about their training programs, about how they’ve done in previous games,” Johnson said. “It’s just pure economics.”

And it’s been remarkably accurate in the past – as much as 95 percent.

Johnson, who teaches economics at Colorado College, has run the formula for the Torino, Athens, Sydney and Salt Lake City Olympic games. Before the Torino Olympics, he correctly predicted 13 of the top 14 medal-winning nations, including a forecast of Germany at the top of the standings. In Athens 2004, Johnson predicted the U.S. would win 103 medals, 37 of them gold. The American team won precisely 103 medals, of which 35 were gold.

In Torino, the study’s predictions have a 93 percent correlation with actual medal counts (89 percent with gold medals alone). The overall medal accuracy for the Athens, Salt Lake City and Sydney Olympics were 94 percent, 94 percent, and 95 percent, respectively.

“That beats every bookie on the market,” he said. “That beats Sports Illustrated, beats all the Olympic committees, national and international. It surprises even us that such a simple model performs so very well.”

Johnson’s paper, “A Tale of Two Seasons: Participation and Medal Counts at the Summer and Winter Olympics,” was first released in 1999 with Ayfer Ali, while Johnson was on sabbatical at Harvard University and Ali was a student. It was published in Social Science Quarterly in December 2004.

Johnson is now an associate professor of economics at Colorado College, located just a couple of miles from the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

His predictions for the top medal-winning countries for the 2008 Beijing, China Summer Olympic Games:

  • United States: 103 medals total; 33 gold
  • Russia: 95 medals total; 28 gold
  • China: 89 medals total; 44 gold
  • Germany: 66 medals total; 18 gold
  • Japan: 37 medals total; 16 gold
  • Hungry: 31 medals total; 10 gold
  • Italy: 29 medals total; 8 gold
  • Great Britain: 28 medals total, 3 gold
  • France: 27 medals total, 5 gold
  • Australia: 26 medals total, 2 gold
  • South Korea: 24 medals total, 6 gold
  • Poland: 24 medals total, 6 gold
  • Bulgaria: 23 medals total, 6 gold
  • Netherlands: 22 medals total, 4 gold
  • Sweden: 19 medals total, 2 gold
  • Canada: 17 medals total, 0 gold

Johnson says his Olympics predictions show that athletes from well-resourced nations and nations nearest to the games – those who don’t struggle with extensive travel, time-zone differences and cultural challenges – fare the best. He says the real standouts should be those countries that defy the odds and win more medals than predicted.

“If we predicted that Botswana will win two medals and in fact they win four, that should be amazing,” Johnson said. “That should be headline news.”  

Johnson received his bachelor of social science degree in economics from the University of Ottawa in 1991; his master of science degree in economics from the London School of Economics in 1992; and his Ph.D. in economics from Yale University in 1998. He has been a professor at Colorado College since 2004, teaching and researching the economics of innovation.

About Colorado College
Colorado College is a nationally prominent, four-year liberal arts college that was founded in Colorado Springs in 1874. The college operates on the innovative Block Plan, in which its 1,975 undergraduate students study one course at a time in intensive 3½-week blocks. The college also offers a master of arts in teaching degree. For more information, visit www.ColoradoCollege.edu.