The biggest spectacle in sport has had its opening ceremony and some events have already started. While this is a political betting site, many of us are still interested in the Olympic betting markets, perhaps simply because they used to be grouped with politics in the ‘Specials’ section of sportsbook websites.
Team USA is a huge favorite to top the medal table, at most 1/12 to win the most medals and 1/8 to win the most gold. This is a feat they have accomplished in 5 of the last 6 games (China beat most of the golds in Beijing, 2008). Despite the slim odds, the gamble on the majority of the medals is arguably a worthy one. But another market caught my eye.
Various bookmakers have lines above / below the total number of medals (or simply golds) that various countries will win. Team USA has a benchmark of 110.5 with Ladbrokes (18/25 up, 1/1 down) and 112.5 with 10Bet (20/23 each side). Other bookmakers have similar odds on similar lines.
I’m betting on the bass. Team USA has topped the table time and time again, but reaching those total medal heights has been rarer.
|Olympic Games||Total US Medals|
|2016 – Rio||121|
|2012 – London||104|
|2008 – Beijing||112|
|2004 – Athens||101|
|2000 – Sydney||93|
|1996 – Atlanta||101|
|1992 – Barcelona||108|
|1988 – Seoul||94|
At a glance, American dominance is so strong that jumping along these lines is entirely plausible, but Rio must be treated as an outlier. Russia, a country frequently in the top three rungs of the medal table, saw its delegation nearly halved as punishment for doping. Many of the hardest-hit sports are the ones that have been the most successful in the past (perhaps not by chance): The United States undoubtedly picked up a few more medals as a result.
If Rio had been more in line with previous games, the United States probably would have fallen a bit short once again. While the pandemic makes these games a bit more difficult to predict, there is just as great a risk that American athletes will be eliminated from events than their rivals. Over all the different events, that luck may well balance out anyway.
Sometimes betting is a simple matter of looking at the base rate. The United States could certainly break the betting lines, but it probably won’t. In pairs or very close, the value is in backing them to fall short.
The main risk here, aside from the over-performance of the US team, is that there are (once again) a record number of medals available in Tokyo. The United States could achieve its goal simply by winning the same proportion of medals as before. On the other hand, new events do not necessarily favor the same nations as long-standing events, and at least a professional tipster has a central estimate of 96 American medals.
All odds are correct as of July 21. Pip Moss publishes in political bets like Quincel. You have bets that the United States falls below the medal lines at Ladbrokes and 10Bet. You can follow him on Twitter at @PipsFunFacts