Economic model sees Winter Olympics gold for Canada

January 22, 2010

Canada will take home the gold at the Winter Games in Vancouver next month if one economist is to be believed.
    
Colorado College economic professor Daniel K.N. Johnson has the host country topping the medal charts with 27, including 5 golds, beating the United States and Norway’s overall totals by one.
    
Far from weighing which athletes are the favorite, Johnson’s model considers a country’s per-capita income, population, climate, political structure and the home field advantage. The last factor works heavily in Canada’s favor this year, warming the Canadian-born economist’s heart.
    
“We all subconsciously know that small, poor, warm nations are at a disadvantage when it comes to the Winter Games,” Johnson said in a statement. “Our model quantifies those effects, so that each nation can celebrate victory if they exceed the model’s predictions. 
    
“For a small nation, winning three medals is an amazing accomplishment,” he added. “For the U.S. or Germany or Russia, it’s appropriate to expect a lot more.”
    
So what’s the track record for his model? Johnson and a colleague first constructed it before the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia. Since then, he said the model has an average correlation of 94 percent with overall medal counts and 87 percent for gold medals specifically.
    
For instance, the model suggested the United States would win 103 medals, including 33 golds, in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. The U.S. finished with 110 and 36. For the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, the model forecast Germany would top the medal count at 28 and it indeed finished first with 29 medals.
    
Canada won’t win all the glory this year, however, as Johnson, who teaches the economics of technological change, has Russia winning the most gold medals with 8, one ahead of Germany.

PHOTO: The Olympic rings are framed by a Canadian flag in Vancouver, Jan 14, 2010. REUTERS/Andy Clark

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