The cost for bidding for the games is incredibly high. Bid committees must pay an application fee (The fee for hosting the 2012 Olympics was $150,000 U.S.D), to the IOC. This high fee is meant to discourage cities that are not committed to the efforts necessary to host the Olympics. Following these fees, the cities generally need to begin large construction projects like building the “Olympic village” to house the athletes, new sports arenas and stadiums, and transportation systems.
Does all this expenditure help improve medal tally?
Now let’s see how being the Hosts help the nation in the events.
Research has shown that home-field advantage is a constant in sports across the world. For eg: Home teams in football receive fewer yellow cards. To see whether the same is true in the Olympics, we analyzed medal counts since 1988 Seoul Olympics by comparing a country’s results in the year it hosted the games to its results in the games before and after they hosted the event.
In the Summer Olympics host countries tend to improve their medal count over their total in the previous games. On an average, host nations of the Summer Olympics increase their overall medal count by 20.1 medals and their gold medal count by 10.9.
Let us analyze the cases of every country that hosted since 1988
Seoul, South Korea, 1988
South Korea performed very well at home in 1988 where many new events were introduced which favored the Asian countries. They continued their good performance in Barcelona Olympics 1992 but after that till 2008 saw a slump in gold medal tally, thanks to rise of China. In the Beijing Olympics they improved their Gold medal count and finished 7th in the medal tally. In 2012 London Olympics they finished 5th even though their number of Gold medals remained the same and total number of medals dropped by 3.
Barcelona, Spain, 1992
For Spain, 1992 Olympics helped them reach the 6th position in the medal tally with 13 Gold medals, a feat they have not been able to recreate. Even breaking into the top 10 seems pretty difficult for Spain as they finished 21st in the 2012 Olympics at London. Spain not being one of the top favorites in Olympics, but really did well when they hosted the Olympics in 1992, Barcelona. The change is very visible when you compare the next two games medal tally with the 1992 Games.
United States of America has been a powerhouse in the Olympic games ever since modern Olympic games started.
For them hosting an Olympics does give them an advantage of home crowd and more number of participants but the effect of these might not be clearly visible in the medal tally,but still there is a small rise in the gold medals won in Atlanta,1996.In terms of total medals won and the position in the medal tally, moreover remains the same throughout the years after Atlanta,they went on to win till 2008.
In terms of Gold medals won, Australia did better themselves at Athens but increased participation as the hosts did help them to get more number of medals. But in the subsequent games, they have come down dramatically in terms of medals. So the anomaly at Athens can be attributed to the preparations done for the Sydney Olympics working well in the long term. In terms of total medals won, there is a significant difference when they were hosting the Olympics, before and after.
Greece is the example for how hosting has benefited the nation in terms of only medal tally (we all know how it affected the economy) as they could not even win a single gold after 2004. Even the total number of medals won has fallen drastically for Greece. A prime example of how hosting an Olympics can drain you economically as this triggered the economics collapse of Greece.They were at the 15th position at Athens 2004, went down to 58th position in Beijing and 78th in London.
China is a perfect example of how to use home advantage and reap maximum benefits. They send the maximum number of athletes to participate and reaped a medal haul of 100 medals including 51 gold and came first in terms of most number of Gold medals. USA finished a distant 2nd with 36 Gold medals.
UK also benefited in the medal tally by being the host nation, they improved their position from 4 in Beijing to 3(From being 10 in Athens) . Total medals went up by 18 and number of gold medals went up by 10.
Why do host nations do so well?
Research has pointed to referees or crowds as crucial to home advantage in other sports, but we found a few other factors driving the home advantage in the Olympics.
The number of athletes that a country sends to the games jumps tremendously when it is the host. On average, there are 81.2 additional athletes representing the host country than represented it four years earlier or later. The main explanation for this increase is that qualification standards are lower for athletes from the host country. Olympic hosts are guaranteed a spot in each team sport. While some of these host country athletes aren’t good enough to contend for medals, elite athletes from the host may participate in more events than they otherwise would.
Preparing for Olympics, construction of new stadium, more athletes eyes a chance to participate in the Olympics. Thus teams gradually start improving their medal tally well before their home Olympics.
Economic Dent of Hosting an Olympics often leads to gradual decrease in sports funding, ultimately medal tally. A prime example of how hosting an Olympics can drain you economically as this triggered the economics collapse of Greece.They were at the 15th position at Athens 2004, went down to 58th position in Beijing and 75th in London.
For the top countries, hosting an Olympics slightly improves the medal tally where as for poorer nations the impact of hosting is huge on the medal tally.
What will happen in Rio?
- If Brazil’s is grouped as one of the poorer countries, their gold medal tally will go up dramatically ~2-3 times. They are likely to win ~7-10 golds and total tally 23-25 medals. In Tokyo 2020, this medal tally is likely to go down significantly.
- UK medal count likely to go down to Beijing 2008 levels at 20 Gold and a total of ~50 Medals
- US medal count likely to remain at London 2012 levels at ~45 Gold and a total of 100+ medals