London 2012: Team GB 'will win 27 golds at Olympics'

By Ollie WilliamsBBC Olympic sports reporter

Team GB will win 27 gold medals at the Olympic Games, by far its largest haul in a century, according to a study released to the BBC.

That tally would be likely to earn Great Britain third place in the London 2012 medal table, above Russia.

The Sheffield Hallam University study bases the projection on the team's past performance and adjusts for Britain's home advantage at London 2012.

The 27-gold figure is substantially higher than many other forecasts.

Sports statistics provider Infostrada, for example, expects Team GB to win 16 gold medals and place fifth in the medal table, based on a welter of information related to athletes' performances in recent events.

Luciano Barra, former Italian Olympic Committee member, projected just 12 gold medals for the British several months ago, though his tally - based on world championship titles in Olympic sports - has now also risen to 16 on the back of British success at the World Track Cycling in Melbourne earlier this month.

Team GB placed fourth at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, winning 19 gold medals. That figure was itself an increase of 10 on the team's performance in Athens four years earlier and has only been beaten once, at the 1908 Olympics, where hosts Britain won 56 Olympic titles.

While Infostrada and Barra use recent results to create their assessments, Sheffield Hallam's Professor Simon Shibli and Chris Gratton relied solely on broader figures for gold medals won at previous Olympics to formulate a trend.

That figure was then adjusted upwards to account for the increase in medals won by recent host nations.

This method proved the most accurate for Beijing 2008, forecasting 46 gold medals for China compared to the actual total of 51 the hosts went on to record.

"Our model takes a 'whole system' approach rather than sport-by-sport," Shibli told BBC Sport.

"There are different techniques that are in use by various forecasters and part of the 'competition' is to see who can produce the most accurate forecasts.

"Our forecast is based on two premises. First, that the UK takes a state-sponsored approach to elite sport development and is committed to the principles of continuous improvement and seeking a return on investment.

"Second, host-nation status provides a quantifiable benefit that occurs over and above what would happen on a 'business as usual' basis."

The Sheffield Hallam system does not specifically account for changes within sports since Beijing, such as new track cycling rules for London 2012 limiting nations to one entry per event instead of two.

Rival medal table forecaster Barra told BBC Radio 5 live: "In Beijing, our projection for Great Britain [18 golds, compared to an actual figure of 19] was very correct. I think Britain will win close to 60 medals in London but it will not be easy to target the 19 golds won in Beijing."

But Shibli believes forecasts based on recent results do not take into account the effect of home advantage and, therefore, underestimates Britain's potential this summer.

"There is this separate benefit of being the host nation. We are able to contest more sports, more disciplines, more events and more medals than we would previously," he said.

"Now that doesn't guarantee medal-winning success - the host nation also ends up with the most last places. But Britain's pre-qualified athletes have not had to play their hand yet in the way others have, and they have an element of surprise."

Recent Australian reports have projected 17 gold medals for Australia and a finish above Britain, with Matt Favier - who left UK Sport to join the Australian Institute of Sport late last year - saying: "It's not inconceivable the Brits could fall from fourth to eighth and Australia finishes fourth.

"Somewhere in there is Germany, Japan and France isn't far away. I'm looking at the nations in that zone of fourth to eighth and it just comes down to the margins on the day."

However, the head of Russia's Olympic committee said on Tuesday Britain posed a threat to third place, which Russia secured in both Athens and Sydney, despite Team GB's stated aim being fourth.

"When the British talk about fourth place, they are being modest," said Alexander Zhukov.