Performance at Summer Olympics Four Years Before Hosting the Games



An article about the prospects for Japan’s 2016 Summer Olympics team in The Japan Times sent me off looking at Olympic medal data.
Simon Gleave is quoted extensively in the article. His observations include this:

I think we are now seeing the effect, or the beginning effect of Tokyo 2020. We’re seeing with Japan what we often see with countries who are going to host the Games, which is the potential for a very good performance in the Games before the ones they host.

I have gone through some data archives to explore four-year out patterns.
My data can be found here.

Four Years Out From a Home Games

I am using total medals won as the introductory basis for my investigation.
Patterns vary according to factors external to the Games themselves.
The most successful performance in total medal terms has been the Soviet Union at the 1976 Games in Montreal. However their subsequent medal haul at a home Games was affected by the United States’ boycott of the 1980 Games. Nonetheless, Russia won 20.39% of the medals available at Montreal.
The top 10 successful nations in terms of total medals won in the Games preceding a home Games are:

  • 1976 Soviet Union (20.39% medals won: first in gold medal table 1980)
  • 1900 USA (17.54%: first in gold medal table 1904)
  • 1928 USA (17.13%: first in gold medal table 1932)
  • 1992 USA (13.25%: first in gold medal table 1996)
  • 1920 France (9.34%: third in gold medal table 1924)
  • 1896 France (9.02%; first in gold medal table 1900)
  • 1908 Sweden (7.72%: second in gold medal table 1912)
  • 2004 China (6.80%; first in gold medal table 2008 )
  • 1932 Germany (5.78%: ninth in gold medal table 1936)
  • 1956 Italy (5.33%: third in gold medal table 1960)


Gold Medal Success Four Years Out From a Home Games

My data suggest this rank order of gold medal success at each of the Games in the modern era:


Gold Medal Success at a Home Games

My second source of ranking data is a nation’s place on the medal table based on gold medal success.
In the Olympic Games held since 1896:

  • 8 hosts have won more gold medals than any other nation competing.
  • 2 hosts have won the second highest number of gold medals.
  • 5 hosts have won the third highest number of gold medals.

Of the other hosts, four have finished outside the top ten of gold medal winners:

  • Great Britain (twelfth in 1948)
  • Greece (fifteenth in 2004)
  • Mexico (fifteenth in 1968)
  • Canada (twenty-seventh in 1976)

The Gold Medal rank order looks like this for home Games:
The two highest totals of gold medals won come from the boycott era (1980 and 1984).
It will be interesting to investigate the impact of the exclusion of any Russian athletes at the Rio Games.

Photo Credits

110 metre race – Olympic games 1912 (Library of Congress, no known copyright restrictions)
Maureen Gardner wins heat two of Women’s 80m Hurdles, Olympic games, London, 1948 (National Media Museum, no known copyright restrictions)
Olympic Stadium, Montreal (Ron Reiring, CC BY 2.0)
Beijing Olympic Games Stadium (Andy Miah, CC BY-SA 2.0)


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