The Dismal Dash: Olympionomics

The Economist, July 28, 2012:  Finance and economics

Olympionomics: New York.  

Which economist will win the medal-prediction gold? 

Finance and economics “Athletic prowess is not all that is being tested at this year’s Olympic Games.  There will also be teams of econometricians battling it out to predict how many medals will be won by the host nations.  Over the years economists have deployed all sorts of mental gymnastics in their search for a model that can reliable forecast Olympic winners.  Initial expectations that medal tallies would be closely correlated with the population and per-capita wealth of a country were soon dashed.  The models leapt over the hurdle of statistical significance only when a third variable was added–how many medals the country won the last time were soon dashed.”

According to this article, the “dismal scientists hopped, skipped and jumped to two other statistical significant results.”  First, was “the Soviet effect” ; this “began to fall with the Berlin Wall.  Second, the host nation effect, that they tend to win more medals than at other times.  Predicting the size of the effect and the number of medals Britain “will bag is the equivalent of the 100-metre dash.”

The events/metaphors used in this article are:  the dash, the 100 meter dash, the hop, skip and jump, the hurdle, and gymnastics.  All but the last is a track and field event.  

“The 100 yard dash is an event of 100 yards or 91.4 meters.  It was part of the Commonwealth Games until 1966 and was included in the decathlon of the Olympics, at least in 1904.  It is not generally used in international events (having been replaced by the 100 meter sprint.  However, it is still occasionally run in the United States in certain competitions.”  (Wikipedia)


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