Measuring and forecasting elite sporting success
In this chapter we consider two key challenges that face nations seeking to achieve success in elite-level sport. As a proxy for what is meant by the term ‘elite-level sport’, we use summer Olympic Games, which in 2012 involves 26 sports, 39 disciplines and 302 events. The first challenge is the issue of measuring the performance of nations in elite sport in a consistent manner such that the efficiency and effectiveness of a system can be measured. By the term ‘efficiency’ we mean the ratio of inputs to outputs, for example the amount of money that is invested in a sport in order to win an Olympic medal. As a contrast, the term ‘effectiveness’ is a measure of output, that is the extent to which stated goals are achieved, without reference to inputs such as cost. The second (and perhaps somewhat controversial) challenge is the notion of forecasting how nations might be expected to perform in elite level sport. These two issues require some contextualisation and should not necessarily be accepted as valid concerns without further explanation. Why would nations be interested in measuring their performance in elite sport and what justification can there be for attempting to forecast performance? The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been consistent about the purpose of the Olympic medal table for some time. In its 2003 study into European sporting success UK Sport reported the IOC’s position as quoted below:
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) does not recognise global ranking per country; the medal tables are displayed for information only.