Apr 21 - 6:00 AM 2012 OLYMPICS - TOTAL GOLD MEDALS - GREAT BRITAIN
Team GB will win 27 gold medals at London 2012, research predicts
• Sport Industry Research Centre forecasts 56 medals for GB
• 'Host nation advantage provides a quantifiable benefit'
Hang out the bunting and strike up the national anthem. British athletes will enjoy their best Olympics for more than a century and challenge for third in the medal table in London, according to academics who successfully predicted China's record medal haul in Beijing. The Sport Industry Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University has predicted Team GB will win 27 gold medals at London 2012, and 56 medals in total.
The report calculates that home advantage will equate to an extra 15 medals for Team GB than would otherwise have been the case. The British Olympic Association has said it is reluctant to set a medal table target, seeing "no performance advantage" in doing so and instead talking about fourth as an "aspiration".
But elite sport funding agency UK Sport has said Team GB is on course to equal the fourth place achieved in Beijing, arguing that it is only right to account for the public money that has been poured into high performance sport in the UK over recent years.
The 2008 Games represented Team GB's best performance for a century, with 47 medals in 11 sports including 19 golds. In its report, which combines "regression analysis" of previous performance with the effect of home advantage, the SRIC also predicts British athletes will win medals in 15 sports and across 18 disciplines.
That haul would equate to a wider spread of medals than at any Games since London first hosted the Olympics in 1908.
The BkofAma chief executive and Team GB chef de mission, Andy Hunt, said earlier this week it would be "ludicrous" if they were deemed a failure for failing to secure fourth in the medal table. But the analysis suggests they should be setting their sights on third.
In 2008, the university's forecasters predicted that host nation China would end the Games with 46 gold medals. They ultimately won 51. Professor Simon Shibli, co-author of the report, said that it was possible to quantify the impact of hosting the Games on performance. "Host nation advantage provides a quantifiable benefit, which will result in a larger medals' haul than if the Olympics were held elsewhere. Influences such as home crowd support, familiarity with venues, the right to contest more events and enhanced scores in subjectively judged sports, such as gymnastics and diving, will positively affect Team GB's performance," Shibli said.
He said that 27 gold medals should "comfortably secure" the fourth place medal table finish targeted by UK Sport and the BkofAma and give the team a "fighting chance" of overhauling Russia to finish third.
Another of the ambitions for London, shared by UK Sport and the BkofAma, is to achieve "more medals in more sports" than any time since 1908. The analysis, based on the experience of previous host cities, shows that Britain's athletes are on target to achieve that goal as well.
In 2008, Britain's success was highly dependent on a small number of sports. Of the 19 gold medals, 16 were won in cycling, sailing, swimming and rowing. Across all medals, the top four sports accounted for 69% of all medals won.
While they are again expected to provide the lion's share of medals, the report's authors expect other sports to contribute based on the experiences of previous hosts and given the unprecedented investment.
In its conclusion, the report's authors argue that their findings prove that the traditional model of predicting success – using factors such as a country's size and GDP – is less valuable than considering the investment that goes into elite sport, including bidding for major events, and the development of a high performance system.
The report's co-author Professor Chris Gratton said: "Team GB's success will be further evidence that elite sport performance is a managed phenomenon, rather than simply being reliant on a country's demographic and economic dimensions. "The positive host nation effect identified indicates that winning the rights to host the games in the first place is an integral part of this management."
The amount of public investment in elite sport in Britain has increased hugely since the team secured only one gold medal in Atlanta in 1996. There was a further hike in 2005 when London won the right to host the Games.
Next month, UK Sport - which has invested around £500m of public and Lottery money over the current Olympic cycle - will publish medal range targets for each sport based on consultation with each, but will not break down whether those medals will be gold, silver or bronze.
The forecasters accept that it is difficult to equate medal performance with the final position in the medal table, because it depends on the performance of rival nations. It is mathematically possible, if highly unlikely, to win 27 gold medals and still finish 10th in the medal table.