Dan Johnson is a Canadian American micro-economist and entrepreneur. He has gained widespread fame for devising a model which accurately predicts Olympic medals to be won by different countries. Johnson is currently employed as an associate professor at Colorado College, where he also serves as chair of the economics department.
Johnson grew up in Vancouver and received an elaborate education over the course of his life. He had the honor of completing his Master’s degree from the London School of Economics, after which he went to Yale University to pursue his post doctorate studies in economics. He currently spearheads the Innovative Minds Program at Colorado College in the United States.
Johnson first started working on his model in 1999 with one of his colleagues during a brief stint at Harvard University. His model has since increased prediction accuracy concerning gold medals, though its overall accuracy slightly falls short in comparison with the forecast accuracy of the total medal count. Unlike popular perception, his framework takes no account of the attributes of the individual athletes or the games they are participating in. It instead concerns with broader variables, such as the country’s total population, climatic conditions, political arrangement, per capital income, as well as the home advantage obtained by the country for hosting the games.
These variables, to the amazement of many, have gone on to very accurately represent the medal winning credentials of Olympic nations. In the 2004 Olympic games in Athens, Johnson predicted that the United States would win a total of 103 medals which would include 37 gold. The U.S. actually went on to win 103 medals, with its gold metal tally only falling short by 2 at 35. This meant that Johnson’s economic model boasted an impressive prediction accuracy figure of 94%. Likewise, at the 2006 Torino Games, the model repeated its forecasting success with an overall accuracy statistic of 93%. Johnson predicted that the Germans would come out on top in the medal count with 28 of them including 10 gold ones. Germany did eventually win with 29 medals, eleven of which were gold.
At the 2008 Beijing Games, the performance of the model was mixed however. Dan Johnson’s model predicted that the Americans would win 103 medals, 33 of which would be gold. These estimates fared reasonably well with actual results, as the United States collected a total of 110 medals, 36 of which were gold. However, in the case of China, the model accuracy was slightly less flattering. Johnson expected the Chinese to collect 89 medals, but they surpassed his expectations by winning a hundred. 51 of these medals were actually gold, contrasting the slightly less 44 medals predicted by Johnson. This lead Johnson to conclude that home advantage plays a significant advantage to the host team’s performance at the games. He argued that host nations would typically gather 3 additional medals than they otherwise would if the games were scheduled in the winters; this advantage would rise to 25 medals if the games were carried out in the summers. Johnson further made a somewhat absurd claim at this point, asserting that states governed by a single party are more likely to deliver better results at the Olympics than the ones governed by democracy.
While predicting Olympic medals is definitely his forte, Dan Johnson has also devoted a lot of his time to microeconomic analysis, especially in the field of business development. He founded the BookCheetah in 2012, which is an online platform where users can trade and exchange textbooks. He currently teaches economics at the Colorado College in the U.S.