UCL reader urges British fans not to panic over lack of gold medals so far at London 2012
1 August 2012
As the London 2012 Olympic Games enters the fifth day of competition, Great Britain are still without a gold medal, and sports fans across the country are asking whether Team GB's home advantage is becoming more of a hindrance than a help.
Academics from two universities have joined the debate, and have differing opinions over the effectiveness of the passionate home support.
Antoinette Minniti, a lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology at Nottingham Trent University, says that Team GB's slow start shouldn't come as too much of a surprise.
"Home advantage is really not always an advantage. Sometimes it is a disadvantage. And often it's about what the athletes and coaches expect, and how they embrace it," she explains.
She says that increased pressure and expectation, along with worries over letting friends, families and coaches down, could be weighing heavily on the minds of British competitors.
However, Nigel Balmer, a reader in Law and Social Statistics at University College London, says it is far too early to panic.
"There are instances of home disadvantage, but in general it is a help," he insists. "As a statistician, there is certainly not enough evidence to show that Team GB are suffering from the pressure of performing in front of their home fans, and as a sports fan, I am similarly unconvinced.
"Take the example of our first opportunity to win an event, which came in the men's cycling road race," he continues. "I would say that there was actually little prospect of us winning the gold.
"It sounded to some like sour grapes, but Mark Cavendish's comments (after the race) were spot on. In many sports , the margins between winning and losing are so fine that the difference between gold and silver could simply be a case of random factors - especially in events such as diving, where the onus is on consistency."
He adds: "Sometimes random error works in your favour, and there are plenty of events to come. As a statistician, I would say it's not time to panic yet."
Based on his former work, Balmer also believes that there are certain sports in which the home fans can have an even greater impact, and benefit the likes of Anthony Ogogo and Beth Tweddle later on in the Games.
"We have found previously that home advantage is far greater when the outcome has a subjective input from officials, in sports such as gymnastics," he explains.
"One reason for this might be that the crowd, through vociferous home support, is able to influence officials to favour the home team. Therefore, the take home message for fans is clear; cheer as loudly as possible, especially at events such as boxing or gymnastics."
By Carly Baldwin
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