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Economics Professor Johnson hits 93 percent with Olympics predictions

Daniel K.N. Johnson's Olympic medal predictions -- based solely on economics factors -- proved to be winners again, with 93 percent accuracy.

Johnson, an associate professor of economics at Colorado College, considers only per-capita income, population, climate, political structure and home-nation advantage - with absolutely no information about individual athletes or competitions - to forecast the number of medals a country will win for the Olympic Games. This is his fifth time predicting Olympic medal counts, with accuracy as high as 95 percent in the past. The formula was devised in 1999 by Johnson and a fellow researcher.

This year's correlation with actual results is 93% this year, using all 79 nations for which Johnson had data. The correlation is 92% among the 36 "top" nations that he published in a
press release weeks ago.

For gold medals, the correlation is 92% for all 79 nations, 91% for the subset of 36 "top" nations.

China and the United States both outperformed the estimates (11 and seven more medals than predicted, respectively). Germany and Russia were lackluster, each with 23-25 medals less than predicted.

Other big stories were the United Kingdom's astounding performance in both total and gold medals. Australia continued to rock the pool. Each won 19 or 20 more medals than the model predicted.

Korea soared (winning seven more medals than predicted) while Japan stumbled (-12).

Six nations won medals but were not predicted to do so: Iceland, Sudan, Togo, Venezuela, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

Five nations won gold medals but were not predicted to do so: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Kenya and Zimbabwe. Kenya ended up winning five gold medals, and Canada three. Johnson said the surprises are the real winners. "Compared to zero predicted, those are amazing stories," he said.

See Johnson's final results.

Report an issue - Last updated: 12/16/2020