Olympic Medal Predictions

August 3, 2016

The United States, China, and Russia finished 1-2-3 in the medal standings at the 2012 Olympics in London. Every two years we work closely with the Wall Street Journal projecting Olympic medal totals for the Olympics. Our projection system predicted that order of finish. Three weeks ago we were projecting the same order for 2016 in Rio.

Not anymore.

With nearly a third of the athletes from Russia being banned from participating in the Olympics this year for using illegal drugs, the third spot is now wide open. Three weeks ago we were predicting Russia to finish third with 59 medals. Now Great Britain, Germany and Australia have all jumped ahead of them in our projections

Projected Final Medal Count
2016 Olympics – Rio de Janeiro
Country Gold Medals Total Medals
United States 42 101
China 35 82
Great Britain 16 51
Germany 15 50
Australia 17 48
Russia 15 47
France 12 43
Japan 11 35
South Korea 10 24
Italy 7 23


We ran 1,000 simulations and the United States and China finished first and second in nearly every one. But it’s a toss-up for third place in the medal standings as Great Britain, Germany, Australia, and France all have a legitimate chance of upstaging Russia.

We work very closely with the Wall Street Journal to develop these projections. Here is some very interesting analysis by Matt Futterman from the Journal entitled "U.S. Women, the Odds-On Favorites in Rio".


COMMENTS (5 Comments, most recent shown first)

The hosting nation anecdotally often outperforms expectations so I wouldn't be surprised if Brazil sneaks into the top three to five spots.
6:46 PM Aug 6th
Not sure if this is exactly what you mean (pretty sure it isn't) :-) but....
I've always (since childhood) been icked out by the listings of medals-by-country, always got an instant tension in my gut when I would see them. I always thought of it more as a thing between individuals and a celebration of the countries all getting together, rather than countries-vs.-countries.
11:19 AM Aug 6th
Does anyone really care?
11:53 PM Aug 5th
Speaking of "poll vaulters" :-) (no, not gonna do any political stuff on that) and Olympic surprises: My favorite Olympic surprise, not because of the thing itself but because of the reaction of one of the guys, was the "Dan and Dave" thing in 1992. Dan and Dave, both Americans, were considered among the top decathlon contenders for the '92 Olympics; I think Dan was the favorite. However, a funny thing happened along the way: Dan didn't make it past the U.S. trials, which I guess was kind of like Mike Trout not making the team out of spring training. (OK, slight exaggeration.) Due to a little bit of stupidity in picking the heights to try in the pole vaulting trial, he scored 0 on that. (You get 3 tries. I think the score you get is based just on the highest single try that you make. He missed on all 3.) That knocked him out of the Olympics altogether. When he missed on his last try, Dave could be seen loudly mouthing "Oh shit!"
What struck me about that was (as I imagined) that Dave's feeling for his friend outweighed any thought of "Good, now I have a better chance to win the gold."

I'd like to think that's what it was. Putting on our cynical hat, we might think it was more that a big "Dan and Dave" ad campaign was planned, and Dave realized this would put a little dent in it.
10:36 PM Aug 4th
Ah, but who will be the Eddie the Eagle of this Olympic cycle? Who will be the Jamaican Bob Sled Team? Who will take the place of that incredibly hot Italian girl who had the unforgettable warmup routine before she raced? Is Middle Earth sending a team? Is there a poll vaulter so good that he doesn't use a pole? Does Ethiopia have a hockey team?
6:05 PM Aug 4th
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