Working Papers / Wellesley College, Department of Economics 2002,02
This paper examines the post-War Summer and Winter Olympic Games in order to determine the economic and political determinants of national participation, of female participation in particular, and of success at the Games (i.e., medal counts). Compared to the Summer Games, Winter participation levels are driven more by income and less by population, have less host nation bias and a greater effect of climate. Roughly similar factors determine medal count success, although single party and communist regimes win far more medals (and gold medals) in both seasons than can be attributed to other factors. We find no large significant differences between types of athletic events (e.g. luge versus nordic skiing). We estimate that major participating nations requires a $260 rise in income per capita to send an extra participant. Similarly the "cost" of an extra medal is $1700 per capita and $4750 per capita for an additional gold medal. Predictions for participation and medal counts (including gold medals in particular) for the 2002 Salt Lake City Games are presented as a test of our analysis.