Going for the gold: lessons from London.

Author:Moore, Colin
Position:FROM WHERE I SIT
 
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The world has been in awe of the tremendous achievements of the Olympic athletes at the London games. Our admiration should fall not just on the performances at the games, but also on the realization of the endless hours of physical training, practice and personal sacrifice made by those seeking success.

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There were numerous individual stories, such as that of Gabby Douglas who, at age 14, left her home and family in Virginia Beach to train in Iowa.

The team achievements of the United States, China, Russia and Great Britain - with 46, 38, 24 and 29 gold medals respectively - are particularly noteworthy. Of course, the Olympics are as much about the single gold medals won by Grenada and Uganda as the feats of the larger, richer countries.

Great Britain is another example of the boost in medal count that host nations appear to enjoy compared to their "normal" level of success. According to an article in the UK's Telegraph newspaper:

* Spain jumped from four medals in 1988 to 22 medals in 1992 when the games were held in Barcelona.

* South Korea averaged seven medals in the games prior to 1988 when Seoul was host and since then has averaged almost 30.

* Australia won 58 medals during the Sydney 2000 Olympics, a record for Australia. It won 35 in London.

* China won 63 medals in 2004 and then jumped to 109 medals in 2008 when the games were held in Beijing. It won 88 in London.

* Great Britain won 65 medals, 29 gold, in London, its largest number of gold medals since 1908.

A paper called "Modelling Home Advantage in the Summer Olympic Games," by N.J. Balmer, A.M. Nevill and A.M. Williams that was published in the Journal of Sports Sciences, tried to identify the causes of home-field advantage. Allowing for factors such as size of population, wealth effects and team quality, there still appears to be an advantage to the home team. Importantly, higher quality/stronger teams exhibit greater home advantage.

Much of the study deals with the bias of judges and the impact of the home crowd on those judges. The research team hypothesized that "significant home advantage would be observed for team games, in which the crowd may have an influence upon the subjective decisions made by officials."

Implied in this statement is the reasonable assumption that the home bias would be more prominent in sports where the outcome is based on subjective judging such as gymnastics and diving, versus the objective judging of sports such as...

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