Friday, 3 August 2012

How does Britain's medal haul look historically?

So you may have noticed that there's been a bit of a sports tournament or something going on in London.

Newspapers were, for some days, full of angst about 'Team GB's' performance. I am personally a bit unsure about whether I want the Olympics to become quite this much of a team event, or to be such a site of nationalistic and patriotic sentiment, but there you are. There's some great stuff to watch whatever your views on this one.

So I thought today that I'd look at the best historical numbers (being both a quantifier and a historian) to see how Britain are doing.

Sports scientists reckon, looking back at the last twelve (non-boycotted and fully attended) games, that the average medal increase over the previous games for the host nation should be thirteen or so in total. So, for the Brits, they should be looking to win about 59 or 60 medals. Other experts, using rather more complex models factoring in Gross Domestic Product, population numbers and government spending on sport, reckon that about 56 medals would add up to a par games.

How are they doing so far? Well, as of right now (10am on Friday 3 August) they've got fifteen medals - somewhat ahead of where they were at a similar point in Beijing (though the running order isn't really comparable). They're going to have to go some to get to 56-60. We can reckon on two or three more rowing medals, three to five in the sailing, eight to ten in the athletics, a couple more swimming medals and up to nine more in the cycling: a total of 29-30 or so on top of that fifteen already in the bag. That takes us to 45.

So 11 to 15 more medals have to come from somewhere - in sports where GB don't dominate - to take Britain's Olympians to their predicted totals and justify the near-£500m pumped into Olympic sports since 2005. Britain

Can they do it? It's something to aim at. They might. But there's the bar - and it's a high one.