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The growth and development of Olympic champions is due to a myriad of factors, many of which are impossible to account for by data analysis. However, are there any parallels between countries’ economic growth and Olympic success? In particular, as countries mature into developed economies, does their increased prosperity translate into more Olympic success, as a result of greater resources to develop athletes?
To answer this question, we analyzed medal distribution (via number of medals won) by splitting countries into one of three groups:
If our hypothesis proves true, we would expect emerging market countries – which have experienced significant growth over the last fifteen years – to constitute a larger percentage of the medals won with each subsequent staging of the summer Olympics.
A look at the data reveals this to indeed be the case. Though our analysis strictly focuses on the major emerging market countries, we see the BRIC nations taking home more medals each Olympic summer. On average, BRICS have increased their medal count approximately 15% each time the summer Olympics have taken place (in relation to the G-7 nations), using 1996 as the starting point. Going forward, we would expect greater convergence between these two groups of countries, as the BRICs continue to mature into large developed economies. To this point, China’s early success in this year’s games illustrates the growing Olympic success of emerging market countries, a trend which will likely continue.
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