Jul 13, 2021
Jul 13, 2021

Is there host nation advantage at the Olympics?

Why do Olympics host nations enjoy an advantage?

Performance of recent Olympics host nations

How many medals will Japan win at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics?

Olympics facts and stats

Is there host nation advantage at the Olympics?

A common conception about the Olympics is that the host nation is expected to perform considerably better than normal, turning in a thoroughly improved medal haul and ranking in the medal table. Is there a historical basis for this, why are host nations expected to perform better, and how might this influence certain nations at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics? Read on to find out.

Why do Olympics host nations enjoy an advantage?

There are several reasons why Olympics host nations tend to win more medals than usual. Firstly, the majority of the crowd at the events is likely to be supporting athletes from the home nation, providing them with an extra motivational boost which could prove pertinent in sports often settled by minute margins.

Not only do host nations tend to increase their funding for athletes, they are also allowed to enter more than normal.

Home nation athletes also have a considerably greater opportunity to become accustomed to the venues and facilities hosting events, as well as the climate for outdoor sports. Equally, they will not be required to travel as far, meaning they will be less susceptible to travel fatigue, jet lag, and similar factors that may negatively affect an athlete’s performance and preparation.

On top of this, among the large sums of money they spend to prepare for the event, Olympics hosts often greatly increase their funding for athletes in the build-up to the Games in a bid to ensure that their time as host is marked with a flurry of medals.

For instance, Great Britain’s Olympics organisation Team GB spent £58.9 million funding athletes during the four years leading up to Sydney 2000. For the four-year period before London 2012, this figure had increased to £264 million and focused on key events such as cycling and rowing, for which Great Britain were expected to win multiple medals.

Similarly to how research has illustrated that soccer, basketball, and baseball teams playing at home are assisted by more favourable referee calls, home nation athletes competing in events that involve subjective decision making such as boxing, gymnastics, and certain team sports are also likely to benefit from a similar advantage.

The host nation is also granted an automatic qualifying berth for each event, meaning they can enter significantly more athletes than would likely qualify under normal circumstances and have a palpably better opportunity to win medals.

Indeed, the last 10 Olympics host nations have entered an average of 186 more athletes than at the previous Olympics they competed at, and most recently Brazil had 465 athletes involved at Rio 2016 compared to just 258 at London 2012.

Performance of recent Olympics host nations

Host nation

Medal count at preceding Olympics

Medal count at hosting Olympics

Medal count at following Olympics

Canada (1976)

G: 0 S: 2 B: 3
Total: 5 Rank: 27

G: 0 S: 5 B: 6
Total: 11 Rank: 27


USSR (1980)

G: 49 S: 41 B: 35
Total: 125 Rank: 1

G: 80 S: 69 B: 46
Total: 195 Rank: 1


United States (1984)


G: 83 S: 61 B: 30
Total: 174 Rank: 1

G: 36 S: 31 B: 27
Total: 94 Rank: 3

South Korea (1988)

G: 6 S: 6 B: 7
Total: 19 Rank: 10

G: 12 S: 10 B: 11
Total: 33 Rank: 4

G: 12 S: 5 B: 12
Total: 29 Rank: 7

Spain (1992)

G: 1 S: 1 B: 2
Total: 4 Rank: 25=

G: 13 S: 7 B: 2
Total: 22 Rank: 6

G: 5 S: 6 B: 6
Total: 17 Rank: 13

United States (1996)

G: 37 S: 34 B: 37
Total: 108 Rank: 2

G: 44 S: 32 B: 25
Total: 101 Rank: 1

G: 37 S: 24 B: 32
Total: 93 Rank: 1

Australia (2000)

G: 9 S: 9 B: 23
Total: 41 Rank: 7

G: 16 S: 25 B: 17
Total: 58 Rank: 4

G: 17 S: 16 B: 17
Total: 50 Rank: 4

Greece (2004)

G: 4 S: 6 B: 3
Total: 13 Rank: 17

G: 6 S: 6 B: 4
Total: 16 Rank: 15

G: 0 S: 2 B: 1
Total: 3 Rank: 60=

China (2008)

G: 32 S: 17 B: 14
Total: 63 Rank: 2

G: 48 S: 22 B: 30
Total: 100 Rank: 1

G: 38 S: 31 B: 22
Total: 91 Rank: 2

Great Britain (2012)

G: 19 S: 13 B: 19
Total: 51 Rank: 4

G: 29 S: 17 B: 19
Total: 65 Rank: 3

G: 27 S: 23 B: 17
Total: 67 Rank: 2

Brazil (2016)

G: 3 S: 5 B: 9
Total: 17 Rank: 22

G: 7 S: 6 B: 6
Total: 19 Rank: 13


Japan (2020)

G: 12 S: 8 B: 21
Total: 41 Rank: 6


Of the last 10 Olympics host nations, seven achieved their best or joint-best ever ranking in the medal table, six won the most medals they have ever earned at a single Olympics, and five collected the most golds they have ever won at a single Olympics. Canada in 1976 are the only host nation in Olympics history to not win at least one gold medal nor rank in the top 20 in the medal table in their hosting year.

More specifically, omitting the US who boycotted Moscow 1980, eight of the previous 10 Olympics host nations improved on their ranking in the medal table at the Olympics they hosted compared to the previous edition. The exceptions are Canada in 1976 and the USSR in 1980, who instead maintained their positions (although the aforementioned US boycott made this task much easier for the latter).

The last nine Olympics host nations won 5.35% of the total medals at their hosted Games.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, all but one of these nations also improved on their overall medal count. The exemption is the US at Atlanta 1996, although they nonetheless successfully increased their total golds from 37 to 44.

Exempting the USSR’s arguably inflated figures at Moscow 1980, the last nine host nations who competed at the preceding Olympics have improved upon their medal count compared to four years prior by an average of 11.77 medals. Most of this improvement has been in gold medals, where host nations have enjoyed an average increased total of 7.11. As gold medals are the first measure of ranking in the medal table, this explains the host nations’ consistently improved placing within it.

It is worth pointing out that the number of events at the Olympics has risen from 198 at Montreal 1976 to 306 at Rio 2016, naturally supporting any nation’s efforts to win more medals. All but one of the last 10 Olympics have featured more events than at the preceding edition, increasing by an average of 10.8 events per Olympics during this time.

However, again excluding the USSR at Moscow 1980, the last nine host nations’ medal counts also increased their percentage of the total medals won from an average of 4.17% at the preceding Olympics to 5.35% at the hosted Olympics.

Concurrently, of the last eight host nations who competed at the following Olympics, five incurred a drop in their medal table ranking four years later. The exceptions are the US, who successfully defended their position in first at Sydney 2000; Australia, who remained in fourth at Athens 2004; and Great Britain, who were widely deemed to have thoroughly exceeded expectations by rising to second at Rio 2016.

Omitting the US when they hosted Los Angeles 1984 (where their own medal count was thoroughly boosted by the USSR boycott), the last seven host nations also won an average of 6.14 fewer medals and 5.28 fewer golds at the following Olympics. Despite this, four of these achieved a higher ranking in the medal table at the Olympics after the one they hosted compared to the one before, indicating that hosting an Olympics helps to boost medal returns over a long-term period.

A medal factor that doesn’t appear to be particularly influenced by host nation status is the number of medals won per athlete. As previously mentioned, host nations often receive automatic qualification to all events and therefore enter many more athletes than they did at the previous Olympics.

However, excluding the USSR in 1980 and US in 1984 for the aforementioned reasons, the last nine host nations have incurred a drop of 0.017 medals won per athlete, reflecting a very narrow adverse performance on this front.

How many medals will Japan win at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics?

Among the nations to look out for in the next Olympics medal table are Japan (the hosts) and Brazil (the previous hosts). Japan collected 41 medals including 12 golds at Rio 2016 to finish sixth in the medal table, and are reportedly eyeing a minimum of a top-five finish in Tokyo. At the last five Olympics, the nation finishing fifth in the medal table has averaged 15 golds and 41.2 medals overall.

Japan will be aiming to improve upon the 12 gold medals that they earned at Rio 2016.

If Japan were to enjoy around the average margin of improvement of recent host nations, they should be expected to collect 50-55 medals including 18-20 golds. Japan are expected to enter 450-500 athletes at the 2020 Olympics – assuming a median total of 475 and subtracting 0.017 from Japan’s medals per athlete performance at Rio results in an estimated total of 55-60 medals with 16-20 golds.

This would justify Japan feeling confident about ranking at least fifth, although there will be 339 events at Tokyo – a sizeable jump from the 306 at Rio – as well as the return and arrival of new events Japan are expected to perform well in, including baseball, softball, and skateboarding. Therefore, the hosts could plausibly exceed these predictions and place even higher.

Japan are set at 27.5 gold medals in Pinnacle’s medal markets and are priced at 2.220* to get over 27.5 and 1.617* for under. Meanwhile, as Brazil accumulated a similar medal haul at London 2012 and Rio 2016, history dictates that they can expect to maintain a comparable total with fewer golds. According to the trends, a total of 15-20 medals featuring four to six golds is a likely outcome for the previous hosts. Brazil are 1.740* to win over 4.5 gold medals with Pinnacle.

Think Japan are set for a strong showing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics? Get great odds and bet on numerous Olympics markets and medals markets with Pinnacle.

Odds subject to change

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