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Do Wealthier Countries Win More Olympic Medals? Study Predicts China's 2008 Wins

A study published by Wiley-Blackwell in the Pacific Economic Review predicts that China will win at least 14% more medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics – in comparison to the 144 medals won in 2004 – and narrow its medal-tally gap with the USA significantly.

The study also notes that China will still not be able to top the league and remain second behind the USA, and goes on to speculate that Japan and South Korea will win considerably fewer medals in 2008, compared to their 2004 yield.

Lead author of the study “Men, Money, and Medals: An Econometric Analysis of the Olympic Games”, Associate Professor Lui Hon-Kwong – from the Department of Marketing & International Business at Lingnan University in Hong Kong – said, “This study goes beyond casual observations that large and wealthy countries will perform well in international sporting events, and attempts to ascertain the effects of population size and income per capita on the number of medals won.”

The results of the study show that population and income do indeed have a substantial effect on the number of Olympic medals won. And despite controlling these two major determinants, strong country-specific effects in Olympic medal results still remain – supporting the belief that a country or individual’s performance in sport is, to a certain extent, dependent on the amount of resources available – hence the trend of large and wealthy countries performing better in international sporting events.

Professor Lui added, “Contrary to the popular perception that Asians are not very good at sport, the results of this study show that Asian countries do display sports prowess.”

However, the study notes that while the USA and China tend to outperform other countries relative to their size and income, other countries like the ‘Three Asian Dragons’ – Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan – still under-perform despite their strong economic performances.

Alina Boey | alfa
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