Wednesday, August 22, 2012

2014 Winter Olympics: Home Court Advantage - Russia

winter olympics home country advantage

"Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."
 -- Winston Churchill, radio address in 1939

A couple of weeks ago, Graph of the Week published an article describing the significant improvement in medals won by the host country as opposed to how that country 'normally' performs when not hosting. We concluded that Great Britain (the host country) would end up with between 53 and 70 medals (roughly 1.5 - 2.0 times more than 'normal'). As it turns out, they won 65.

The Winter Olympics may not be until 2014, but why not make another prediction for the host country?  So, Russia, let's take a look at you and see what we can surmise.

Fact: Russia has never hosted the Winter Olympics - nor had the Soviet Union. That seems a bit odd seeing that the Russians usually do well in these games. There is probably another story lurking around there, but we'll let someone else field that one.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

2012 Summer Olympics: Home Court Advantage - How Will the Brits Perform?

olympics host country home cooking
The Olympics are a big deal on a global scale. How big? Perhaps Paula Radcliffe (an English long distance runner) said it best:
"I have achieved a lot and I'm grateful for that - I'm just a bit greedy because I want to add the Olympics. It's once every four years - everyone wants it and very few people get it."
Take that sentiment and factor in competing in the Olympics in your home country. Talk about intense!

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What inspires an athlete to perform better in front of a home crowd? How is it possible to jump a little higher, throw a little harder or run a little faster when he/she would otherwise not do so? The graph above shows this effect using the host countries' medal percentage from all modern-era Summer Olympics. There is a sharp increase in the total number of medals won (as a percentage of all medals awarded) by the host country as opposed to when they are not hosting. It should be noted that some of the results are heavily skewed due to boycotts (which further increased the home countries medal percentage significantly) and other factors described later in this article.

The 'home court advantage' has been studied previously and is a well-known phenomenon. In fact, it appears to be present across all sports as noted by Harvard researcher Jeremy P. Jamieson, PhD, in the Journal of Applied Psychology:

"A significant advantage for home teams was observed across all conditions (Mp = .604); and time era, season length, game type, and sport moderated the effect."

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