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Dan Johnson: "The Man Who Predicts Medals"

Dan Johnson:

Don’t be surprised if the name Dan Johnson crops up frequently during the Olympic Games in London this summer. And when you do hear his name, it may be in Russian, Portuguese, Chinese, Norwegian, or Korean – just a few of the countries in which media have besieged Johnson for interviews.

Johnson may be hot news, but he is not an Olympic athlete. Johnson is a CC associate professor of economics, the person Forbes magazine calls “the man who predicts the medals,” a  distinction based on Johnson’s 93 percent accuracy rate during the past five consecutive Olympic Games in predicting Olympic medals.

He uses a model that, surprisingly, does not include athletic ability as one of its factors, yet has been extraordinarily accurate. His forecast model predicts a country's Olympic performance using non-athletic data such as per-capita income, the nation's population, and the home-field advantage for hosting the Games or living nearby.

As the Olympics draw closer (July 27-August 12), the interview requests increase. Recent interviews include those with the BBC, Global TV, the Financial Times, and Radio Sydney (Australia), as well as media outlets in a variety of nations, including India, Sweden, Poland, Germany, Estonia, Pakistan, Slovakia, and the United States.

Johnson treats the model’s predictions as ‘benchmarks’ to help set national expectations at realistic levels.  “We all have expectations about how our own nation, or other nations, will perform so we attempt to quantify those expectations, 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.  For the U.S. or Germany or Russia, it’s appropriate to expect a lot more,” he said. “How much more? That’s where the model comes in.”

To view Johnson’s Olympic medal predictions, go to: http://faculty1.coloradocollege.edu/~djohnson/Olympics/Olympics2012TablesOnly.pdf