Even economists like to have a bit of fun every once in a while.
Goldman Sachs’ economic research unit has predicted which nations will pick up the most medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics in a not sent to clients this week.
The Games begin in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro on Saturday, following a lavish opening ceremony the evening before.
Unsurprisingly, Goldman is backing the USA and China to comfortably top the medal table, as they have in the past two Olympics, with the US team forecast to pick up 45 gold medals and a total of 106 medals, and China grabbing 36 golds out of an 89-medal total haul.
Happily for Britain’s Rio Olympians, Goldman is backing them to retain third place in the medal table. They expect the UK to pick up 23 golds and 59 medals in total, keeping the Russian team off the overall medal haul podium.
Here are Goldman’s full forecasts:
To come up with the ranking, bank researchers used thousands of data points on everything from the macro-economic environment of a country to how well it has performed in previous Olympics’ before putting together their predictions:
“Our Growth Environment Score is a proprietary broad measure of growth conditions across countries which we have aggregated annually since 1996. They are designed to capture important features of the economic, political and institutional environment that affect productivity performance and growth across countries, and we use these scores to guide our thinking about countries’ long-term potential.
“Their inclusion in the model reflects the simple insight that a country is more likely to produce world class athletes in a world class environment and while that is hard to measure in a sporting context, we think our GES scores provide a useful and holistic measure of a high-quality environment that can be related to sporting success in addition to economic success.”
Goldman’s team, led by Francesco Garzarelli, has not just predicted the overall outcomes, however. It has also created a breakdown of which countries it feels will excel in which sports. The report is around 20-pages long, but Goldman’s key findings include the assertion that British athletes tend to excel in so-called “seated sports” like cycling and rowing, while China is set to dominate events like table tennis, badminton, and diving.
Other interesting observations on a country-by-country basis include that Australia will likely dominate the triathlon events, South Korea’s archers will own their discipline, and that Italy will excel in the fencing. Take a look at Goldman’s dominance chart below:
And here’s how Garzarelli and his team constructed their so-called “dominance index”:
“To address this question, we construct a dominance score for each sport and country using historical data on medal attainment.
“We do this calculation in three steps: first, we calculate a medal attainment per country per sport per year index by assigning three points to every gold medal, two points to every silver medal and one point to bronze; second, we calculate a decaying moving average of this index (with the highest weight given to the most recent (London) Games, and rapidly decreasing weights thereafter).
“Finally, we express the dominance index as a percentage of total medal scores for each sport, so that we can compare the index across sports with a different number of events.”
The last time Goldman took to predicting a major sporting event, June’s European Football Championships, it was something of a mixed bag. Before the tournament, Goldman predicted that eventual winners Portugal would be knocked out in the quarter-finals by England. That prediction didn’t materialise, with England knocked out by minnows Iceland in the last 16. Goldman did, however, back host nation France to get to the tournament’s final — even if it did think France would win.