BI Users Go for Olympic Gold

Michael Vizard

Now that the Olympic Games in London have started, attention is starting to turn towards why countries agree to have their athletes participate every four years: the bragging rights that go with the winning of medals.

No one can be certain which athlete will win any given competition, but the folks who dabble in analytics software are pretty certain that the host country for the Olympics usually takes home a lot more medals than they would if they didn’t have home field advantage.

Emily Williams, of the Tuck School of Business team that was 95 percent accurate when it came to forecasting the number of medals each country would win at the Olympic Games in Beijing four years ago, is forecasting that Britain will win 62 medals, up from 47 four years ago. By contrast, PricewaterhouseCoopers says Britain will win 54 medals.

As with most prognostications, however, not everyone agrees. Daniel Johnson of Colorado College says Britain will win fewer medals at home than it did four years ago in Beijing.

You don’t have to be a world-class analyst, however, to make some reliable predictions of your own. Actuate, a provider of business intelligence software, is making available a Dash for Gold application online that anybody can use to access 18 years of historic Olympics results and 25 years of the world statistics, including the potential impact of home field advantage, and the fact that for some unexplainable reason countries where people tend to drink a lot of wine, such as France, don’t tend to do so well in the Olympics.

Jeff Morris, vice president of product marketing for Actuate, says the point of the Dash for Gold exercise is to create a contest that shows casual business users how simple it has become to use an analytics application to visualize massive amounts of information using InfiniteInsight algorithms created with KXEN. The winner of the contest will receive a 32GB 3rd-generation Apple iPad with WiFi.

Of course, as they say in the stock market, past results are no guarantee of future performance. But it will be entertaining to see how all this turns out given all the emphasis being put on the use of predictive analytics in business these days. After all, if they can’t get the Olympics right given all the available data, the odds that predictive analytics applications are going to work for businesses that have much less data to work with might not look so good.

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