Is it possible to predict the number of medals each country will win in the Winter Olympics by using a combination of economic indicators?  Without economics, predicting the winners would involve an extensive amount of knowledge on numerous sports and athletes. By using an economic model, one does not need extensive knowledge about each sport. In a recent study, Madeleine Andreff and Wladimir Andreff tried to predict the number of medals a country could win in the Winter Olympics by using economics.

The paper starts out by stating that there have been a large amount of models that try to predict the medal count for the Summer Olympics, but never for the Winter Olympics. In Adreff’s model, the variables used to determine the amount of medals a country may win include a nation’s population and per-capita income, the political regimes, the amount of snow nations receive, and the number of ski resorts that are located in each country. Of course, the findings should be taken lightly because of the high unpredictability in sporting events. The model does seem to predict accuracy when looking at historical data. At the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the United States won 37 medals and the model predicted that the United States will win 36 medals at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

The results predicted that the United States would win the most medals, Germany would win the second most, Canada would win the third, and Russia would win the fourth most. This may seem disappointing for a country that is hosting the Olympics. Although the predicted 24 medals for Russia is an improvement from the 15 medals it won in the Vancouver Winter Olympics, it does not compare to the amount that the Soviet Union won from 1976 to 1988. The political and economic slump that occurred as a result of the transformation from a communist regime could prove to be the reason for a lower medal count in recent decades. The study supports this theory that lower GDP per inhabitant and population significantly affect the number of medals won. The increase in the predicted number of medals won at the 2014 Winter Olympics could correlate with economic improvements in Russia.

Can sports be predicted using an economic model? It will be interesting to compare the actual medal count at the Sochi Winter Olympics with Andreff’s economic model. Predicting sports can be very difficult considering the surprising outcomes that we often experience. Nevertheless, some countries may have economic resources that may prove to benefit their athletic ability in the Winter Olympics.

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