Hurray! The XXX Olympiad in London, UK, starts today! In honor of the occasion, I’ve decided to make some Olympic predictions.
Photo courtesy The Christian Science Monitor
Prediction 1 – London Olympics Security Problems
Reports are appearing about the unprecendented security measures taken for these Olympics, including missiles on roofs of London residential buildings and warships patrolling the Thames. The army has been summoned and, according to the news sources, the CIA and FBI were asked to assist in the security of the games, following a failure of the UK organizers to hire enough security personnel. Israeli and American teams are bracing for possible terrorist attacks.
The bad news first. From the logistic and security standpoints, the London Olympics are promissing to be a nightmare. I have no doubt that there will be lots of mishaps, mix-ups and other unpleasant events. But we may not hear about most of them in the news, either American or British, because the authorities will do their best to CONTROL the flow of information. Watch for leaks, rumors and alternative news sources that may provide a better picture.
Now, the good news. Although there will be attempts at terrorist attack(s), they will not succeed. Secretly, several interested governments are helping out at the Olympics, having their own security people there to protect their countries’ teams and citizens (this, however, will never be admitted publicly). Such is the sheer scope and magnitude of the modern Olympics that only a few top countries can pull off the security for the games on their own.
What countries will send (or rather, have already sent) their intelligence/surveilance personnel to London? Those who have the strongest intelligence services + have a legitimate concern for their teams/tourists. Definitely US, Israel, Eurozone + Germany. The UK also – grudgingly – will have to work with the Russians and Chinese. Both countries have a very strong intelligence, as well as legitimate concerns for the security of their athletes/citizens present at the games.
With such massive surveilance and intel data sharing between all these countries (albeit, very reluctantly on the part of the US/UK, when it comes to Russia/China), there will be no way anyone can pull off a successful terrorist attack. But I have no doubt attempts will be made.
Here is to the safety of all athletes and spectators alike!
Prediction 2 – London Olympics Team Standings
Predictions are actively being made for the team standings, as well as the medal count. I hear that over $75 mln have been placed in bets, up from $25 mln for the Beijing Olympics.
In the Soviet days, the math of the team standings and medal count was boringly predictable: the Soviet Union would usually take the majority of gold, silver and bronze, and would top the team podium as well. USA would normally be a distant second, with the tiny East Germany third.
The winning Soviet gymnastics team
Then, in 1991, the Soviet Union ceased to exist, losing many of the top athletes and coaches to lucrative contracts in the USA and Western Europe, as well as to the former republics, which suddenly became foreign countries.
As a result, in the 1990s Russia slipped to second, behind the USA. Recently, the growing China became second in medal count, Russia slipping to third. In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China became number one in the gold medal count, while USA was first in total medal count, with China second and Russia third. The Russian medal count was (disappointingly for many) lower than expected, and China’s much higher. What we had here was a typical case of the home team advantage.
2008 Beijing Olympics. The Swallow’s Nest, spectacular Olympic stadium
In Olympic Speak, the first three placements usually occupied by USA, Russia and China are referred to as the ‘Golden Triangle.’
For the London Games, the British newspapers predict that Great Britain, pursuant to the home team advantage rule, may receive up to 33% more medals than normally expected, thus overtaking not only Australia and Germany, but also Russia. Team Great Britain is also the largest team this year with 541 athletes. American team, with 530 athletes, is second largest, while Russia is sending the unusually large number of athletes this year – 436. China, on the other hand, will be represented by a significantly smaller number of athletes compared to the Beijing Olympics, where, as the host country, it had the largest team. The UK enjoys the same luxury this year. The question many ask, will Great Britain be able to break the Golden Triangle?
Meanwhile, the Australian Olympic Team’s projection is that Team Russia will surprise on the upside, becoming again No. 1. The Team Russia’s own projection is much more modest. They feel that they will be able to place third.
My prediction for the Top 3: While Team Great Britain will do very well this year, surpassing Australia and Germany, it won’t be able to break the Golden Triangle.
In the total medal count, USA will be No. 1, Russia No. 2, China No. 3.
Gold medal count: However, China may take more gold medals than USA, placing at No. 1, while USA will be No. 2 in gold medals, Russia being No. 3.
My prediction for the Top 6 placement:
Total Medal Placement Gold Medals Country Population Team Size
USA No. 1 2 311,591,917 530
Russia No. 2 3 141,930,000 436
China No. 3 1 1,344,130,000 380
GB No. 4 4 62,641,000 541
Germany No. 5 5 81,726,000 391
Australia No. 6 6 22,620,600 410
Prediction 3 – this is a separate prediction for one of the most spectacular and popular sports in the Olympics – women’s gymnastics
Gymnastics is a traditional battleground between Russia and USA. Team USA benefited tremendously from the emigration of the Russian coaches and top athletes in the 1990s, who changed the face and level of the American gymnastics. For example, the all-around Beijing champion, Nastia Liukin, is Russian, and trained by the Russian coach who also happens to be her father.
For many years, the Russians were unsurpassed in gymnastics, singlehandedly making it the most popular summer Olympics sport not only in the USA, but also worldwide. The fans of the Russian gymnastics are many. The admiration stems from both the technical difficulty and innovation, together with the unrivaled artistic expression of the Russian gymnasts. But with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the following hardship, sport became the last thing anyone was thinking about. In recent years, the country finally started re-building its great gymnastics tradition, following a number of disappointing showings in the past several years. A lot of money is being invested to turn around this huge, and once invincible, machine of the Russian sport. The results of these efforts should start being visible during London Olympics.
Russian gymnast, Ksenia Komova, 16. Her first year competing as an adult. My prediction: gold medal in the all-around.
Women’s gymnastics prediction:
1. Russia will be No. 1 in the all-around competition.
2. Individual events: Russia will take a fair number of gold, silver and bronze, with USA being second in individual medal count, and Romania third.
3. As to the team competition: Team USA will be No. 1, Russia No. 2, Romania No. 3. Note, there is still a small chance that Team Russia may win the team competition as well.
Check out this great spread about the Russian gymnastics http://rewritingrussiangymnastics.blogspot.com/
So far, I’ve had 100% accuracy with my political predictions. Those come easy, because I am completely detached. Being detached and impartial is paramount in the business of predictions. With sport, it’s much harder, and I freely admit that I cannot be as impartial. Can you blame me?
We’ll know soon enough if I am correct in my predictions, or if the above is my wishful thinking.
Wishing everyone a wonderful and peaceful Olympic Games! May the best athletes win!
August 13 update: I’ll be posting an update to my London Olympic predictions shortly, together with my impressions and thoughts on the subject.