UD professors report results of study on Olympic host nation medal counts
10:55 a.m., July 25, 2012--As the London Olympic Games prepare to open this weekend, professors in the University of Delaware's Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and the Center for Applied Business and Economic Research (CABER) have taken a statistical approach to predicting the performance of participating countries.
While conducting research for a chapter on "High Performance Sport Legacy Associated with Mega Events" for the text The Routledge Handbook of Sport and Legacy: Meeting the Challenge of Major Sports Events due for publication in 2013, professors Matthew Robinson, William Latham and Kenneth Lewis and graduate student Corey Johnson looked at the medal market share for countries that have hosted the games from 1968 to 2008 to determine if the country benefited in a sport performance perspective from hosting the games.
Training international coaches
The professors compared the medal market share for a country for the Olympic Games prior to being awarded host status to the games after they were awarded the games, the games they hosted, and every games thereafter.
Medal market share is determined by calculating the medal points for a country: the number of gold medals multiplied by three, the number of silver medals multiplied by two; and the number of bronze medals multiplied by one. The number is then divided by the total number of medal points available in the games of the given year.
The research indicated that, overall, countries see an increase in their medal market share in the games after they are awarded host status, and then see another increase in medal market share in the games they host. At the games after, there is a decrease in the medal market share but it is at a level greater than before the nation was made aware that it would be a host.
The countries that have experienced this have been Canada (1976), South Korea (1988), Spain (1992) and Australia (2000).
The USSR and the United States, which hosted the 1980 and 1984 games, respectively, each experienced it but because of the boycotts of those two Olympic Games the data was skewed.
In relation to the London games, the professors looked at these past medal market share results to predict the results for the upcoming games for the United Kingdom, the host country; China, which hosted the 2008 games; Greece, the 2004 host; and Brazil, which will be hosting the 2016 games, along with the United States.
The CABER team decided to put its results to a test by comparing predictions that have been made by the sport experts at USA Today and there were parallel findings.
CABER predicts that the U.K., as host country, will increase its market share of 5.3 percent from the 2008 games to 7.5 percent. USA Today predicts 7.0 percent.
CABER predicts that Brazil, the host nation for 2016, will earn 1.89 percent market share while USA Today predicts 2.0 percent.
It should be noted that both the U.K. and Brazil are on target to follow the trends of past host nations. CABER predicts that Greece will earn a .96 percent market share whereas USA Today predicts 1 percent. What is interesting there, though, is that Greece has differed from other host nations in that it is actually in a worse place in terms of medal market share than before it was awarded the games.
Major events not for every nation
“Not every country should host a major international sporting event,” said Latham. “Greece is a small country population- and gross domestic product-wise. After what was spent on building the facilities and hosting the games, there were little if any funds left to contribute to the sport legacy of the country. In fact many of the facilities built for the games went unused after the games and are in disrepair.”
In researching the legacy of the 1994 men’s FIFA World Cup hosted in the U.S. for another chapter in the same text, the researchers discovered that the organizers generated a $50 million profit that has supported the growth of soccer in the country.
The profits assisted in the U.S. hosting of the 1999 Women’s World Cup and the creation of Major League Soccer (MLS), and contributed to the men’s national team qualifying for every World Cup since 1994. Additional results have included a higher FIFA world ranking for the men’s national team, the women's national team remaining at the top of the FIFA world rankings and more American players earning overseas contracts.
The key to that success, the researchers said, was that organizers used existing National Football League stadiums, so there were limited expenses associated with facilities. Also, through creative marketing techniques and a mature sport industry the organizers maximized revenue streams in ticketing, licensing and sponsorship. All of those variables contributed to $50 million profit.
“To think every country can do that with an Olympics and World Cup is not realistic,” Robinson said.
Chinese medal market share
In regards to China, CABER predicts a 7.8 percent medal market share, but USA Today predicts an 11 percent market share.
Robinson attributed the difference to the emphasis China has placed on sport as a part of a broader geo-political strategy.
“China sees sport as a means to promote its growth as a nation,” Robinson noted, “so they will remain committed to trying to stay at the top of the medal market share and will provide the funds and support to do so.”
Robinson added that “medal market share is the truest measure of Olympic performance, for over the years there have been more events added and there are also more countries that have become medal capable. Medal capable means that countries have become very strategic in vying for Olympic medals.
"A good example is South Korea, which had identified certain sports and then put a great deal of effort and financial resources into talent identification, athlete development, incorporation of sport sciences, development of facilities and creating opportunities to compete internationally prior to the Olympic Games.
"The goal is not to win the overall medal account, but rather win in specific events. More countries are taking this approach and thus have decreased the medal count for others countries and have fragmented the market share.”
U.S. medal market share
The CABER research also found that the U.S. has maintained a consistent medal market share over the years and actually did not see much benefit from hosting the games. In fact, the researchers saw a decrease in market share from the 1992 games in Barcelona to the games the U.S. hosted in Atlanta in 1996.
Still, the U.S. remains at the top of the medal count and market share ratings on a regular basis.
“This is interesting, for although a U.S. city may benefit from hosting the games in terms of economic impact, improvement to infrastructure, etc., the actual U.S. performance is not impacted,” Robinson said. “The question then becomes whether or not it is worth it for the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) to support a city’s bid on the games. Because of mediated images on TV and the Internet, U.S. citizens can see the games and aspiring athletes can be inspired by the performances."
Robinson asked, "Are the resources that the USOC would spend on supporting the city hosting the games, be better well spent on enhancing other variables that contribute to international sport success, such as talent identification and development programs, training facilities, high performance sport science research, funding for athletes training, coaching development and international competition?”
Robinson will have the opportunity to see if the results play out as expected first hand as he travels to London in his role as director of the International Coaching Enrichment Program (ICECP).
Over the past four years, the program -- offered in partnership with the USOC and funded by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Olympic Solidarity fund and the USOC -- has hosted more than 100 coaches from 70 countries. Eight of those participants will be coaching athletes in the London Games, while others will be there as officials and representing their Olympic Committees.
The ICECP will host a gathering of the coaches at the Global Coaching House in London.
“It will be incredible to see the past participants at the games,” Robinson said.
"The ICECP is a product of incredible cooperation and support from the University, USOC and the U.S. sport community," Robinson said.
He cited the work of Jeff Schneider, associate director of the ICECP and an instructor in UD's Department of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology, calling him "the backbone and brains of the operation."
Other key contributors include coaches from UD Athletics, Bonnie Kenny, Ian Hennessy, Saul Rafel-Frankel, Tina Martin, Monté Ross, John Hayman and Bob Shillinglaw; the sport medicine staff, John Smith and Dan Watson; William Sullivan and the staff at Marriott's Courtyard Newark-University of Delaware; the University of Delaware Library staff; and the Institute for Global Studies staff.
"I am there representing all of those people as well as many others and what they contribute to the success of the program," Robinson said.
Robinson said he hopes to attend events in which ICECP coaches will be involved.
One person in particular Robinson is hoping to see is 2009 participant Ahmed Nabil al-Taher al-Alam, who is the president of the Libyan Olympic Committee. Al-Taher al-Alam was kidnapped in his home country a week ago and was released this past Sunday. “We were so relieved and happy to hear of Nabil’s safety," Robinson said. "It was humbling to see all the calls for prayers and support from all of the ICECP past participants on our Facebook page. Nabil is a good man who sees that sport can play an important role as his country moves into its next chapter.”
Also while in London, Robinson, who serves as director of Institute for Global Studies, will meet up with the study abroad program that is London for the Olympic Games.
“Steve Goodwin is one of the best study abroad faculty directors we have," Robinson said. “Steve has taken students to the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 and the FIFA World Cup in South Africa in 2010. He provides a quality academic experience that explores the impact of these major events from a sport and societal perspective and an overall experience that is transformational for our students. I look forward to connecting with Steve and the group.”
When the London Games conclude in August, the Olympic involvement for UD will not end. The fifth edition of the ICECP will launch on Sept. 24 with 32 new participants.
Also, Robinson will travel to Johannesburg, South Africa, in November to give the keynote address at the South African Olympic Committee’s Coaching Congress. His topic will be “Ensuring a Major Sporting Events High Performance Legacy: Using SPLISS as a Theoretical Basis for Developing and Implementing a Legacy Plan.”
Also while in the country, he will assess the implementation of legacy plan from the 2010 FIFA World Cup.