The BBC enrolled the help of Meghan Busse from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in the US to calculate the number of medals countries should win based solely on population size and wealth.
The idea is an interesting one because, in theory, the bigger the population of a country, the larger the pool of potential athletes. Wealth is also an important factor when it comes to training.
According to the BBC’s number crunching, the US should top the table with 51 medals, followed by China.
Britain should come eighth with 32 medals, according to the study.
Meghan Busse argued that countries such as Brazil don’t do as well as her formula might suggest because, even though it has a large population, the GDP per capita is low.
“Either people who are lucky enough to be endowed with that athletic ability do not have the leisure to be able to develop their talents, or they don’t happen to live in a place where there are sports programmes and sports facilities,” she said.
Also, some sports offer more medals than others. This is why South Korea tends to come away with a good medal haul – thanks to taekwondo – but India wins few as its most popular sport, cricket, is not an Olympian one.
Australia outperforms Busse’s model thanks to a keen sporting culture. Under the population and GDP theory, Aus would only win 25 medals, but the Aussies took home 46 medals in 2008.
The final conclusion was that GDP per capita and population are not enough to predict the outcome of the Olympics.
Dan Johnson, an economics professor at Colorado College in the US, then weighed in by adding the number of medals countries had won in the past and hosting advantage as factors.
His predictions brought Great Britain up to fourth place, but the Us remained on top, with Russia second and China third.
We’re off for a lie down now.