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New Zealand second best performer at Olympics

Tuesday August 13, 2012
New Zealand second best performer at Olympics

With a haul of 13 medals, New Zealand has outperformed the best predictions of the world’s number crunchers by a massive 162.5 per cent, according to a Massey University economics lecturer.

Dr Michael Naylor, from the School of Economics and Finance, has compiled a table of Olympic medal performance by combining the predictions of the four leading mathematical models used for this purpose. Between them the models include factors like population, per capita income, and financial support for athletes.

“In the least week New Zealanders have been intensely interested in New Zealand’s relative Olympic medal performance, especially how we have done comparatively to other countries,” says Dr Naylor. “My calculations show that New Zealand outperformed what we could relatively expect to achieve by over 160 per cent, and we were second best in the world.”

Only Iran, with 12 medals, exceeded expectations by an even greater degree. However, New Zealand beat the performance of countries like Jamaica, Great Britain, China, and the United States. Our trans-Tasman neighbours, after a disappointing Olympics campaign, ranked just 26th.

Dr Naylor says he averaged the predictions of the most accurate models used to predict Olympic medals to formulate his table.

“The models of Andrew Bernard from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business and Daniel Johnson of Colorado College have proved to be uncannily accurate – above 95 per cent,” he explains. “The Bernard model uses an equal weighting of population and GDP, then adds in a host country effect and the country’s performance in previous Olympic Games.

“The Johnson Model uses those factors proportionally weighted, as well as neighbouring country and country specific factors. Factors like climate and being communist have been shown to now be insignificant.”

To the Bernard and Johnson models, Dr Naylor also added the more recent studies by Goldman Sachs and PricewaterhouseCoppers, which used a wide range of metrics. His results appear in the table below.


   ProportionalTotal Medal Predictions 
RankCountryActual PerformanceBernardJohnsonPWCGoldmanAverage
1Iran12300.0% 5 34
2New Zealand13162.5%777118
6Denmark9135.0%677 7
7Great Britain65132.7%6245543549
8Kazakhstan13121.9%10 91311
11Sweden8106.7% 9 68
18South Korea2896.6%2929273129
24Ethiopia787.5% 8 88
25Ukraine2084.5%23 212724
27Belarus1381.3%15 141916
28Cuba1471.8%19 20 20
29Belgium360.0% 5  5
30Turkey557.7%8810 9
31Switzerland457.1%66 97
32Argentina457.1%  777
33Czech Rep457.1% 7 77
35Greece226.7% 78 8
36Bulgaria221.1% 127 10
 Total top 35813      
 Other Countries145      
 Total Medals958      


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