Hosting the Olympic Games for the first time is generating great expectations for both the Brazilian government and its citizens. One of these expectations is the improvement in performance of the national Olympic team. The nation has never finished in the top 10 in the two most common rank tables: the Gold Medal table and the Total Medal table. However, the Brazilian Olympic Committee is aiming to finish for the first time within the top 10 positions in both tables.
Looking back at the nation’s past performance, the first appearance of Brazil in the Summer Olympic Games was in 1920, and with the exception of the 1928 Olympic Games, the country has been participating in all other editions of the Olympic Games since then. Until 1980, the nation achieved a maximum of three medals per edition, showing no significant improvement in performance during this period. However, Team Brazil increased the number of medals in the following games, perhaps due to the boycotts in 1980 and 1984 of a few nations which had a significant market share on the medal tally in those years. In 1988, there was no significant boycott on the games, and due to the increase in competitiveness as a result, the nation decreased the market share and also the number of gold medals and total medals. From 1996 to 2012 (apart from the number of gold medals in 2000), the nation increased the market share of Total Medals and Gold Medals, demonstrating improvement on the country's capacity for winning medals. However, to a lesser extent, the country increased its capacity for winning gold medals.
Team Brazil historical market share of gold medals and totals medals
Consequently, this improvement of results since 1980 lead Team Brazil to achieve better positions in the ranking of both medal tables, with the exception of 1992, where Team Brazil did not win any bronze medals and only one silver medal, resulting in the worst position in the Total Medals table. In 2000, the country did not win any gold medals but won a considerable number of silver and bronze medals, resulting in the worst Gold Medal table position ever, while at the same time the nation achieved its fourth best position ever on the total medals table.
Team Brazil historical gold medal and total medal rank table
Since 1988, the nation has been reliant alternately on men, women, and mixed gender to achieve its gold medals. The women won their first ever gold medal in 1996, and not long after – in 2008 and 2012 – they won more Gold Medals than men and mixed-gender, showing that the growth of female participation had a substantial importance on the improvement of Team Brazil’s Gold Medals performance. However, Team Brazil do not show a reliance on any specific gender to win gold medals.
Team Brazil gold medals by gender
From 1996 to 2012, an analysis of the medals achievements by Team Brazil indicates that men have an average of 42% more triumphs than women, indicating that the nation is a bit more reliant on men than women in its total medals achievements. Perhaps this reliance is a result of the fact that during this period, men reached more top eight positions (178) than women (67). Nonetheless, both genders are seeing a substantial improvement since 1988 in total medals achievements and top eight final positions.
Team Brazil total medals by gender
Team Brazil number of finalists by gender
Looking at the nation conversion ratios, in most of the past editions the Brazil were more efficient in converting finalists into medallists and finalists into gold medals than other, indicating that Team Brazil already possesses the necessary efficiency to convert finalists into success.
Past tenth places and team Brazil finalists/medallists ratio
Past tenth places and team Brazil finalists/gold medallists ratio
In addition, the increased number of achieved Gold Medals and Total Medals raised the number of sports, disciplines, and events on which recently Team Brazil was successful. The graph below shows that in the past three editions of the Olympic Games, the nation won Gold Medals in at least three sports, events and disciplines. On the other hand, the nation improved the number of Medals in a different range of sports, disciplines, and events. These facts indicate a trend that Team Brazil is becoming successful in medals awarded in a more diverse number of sports, disciplines, and events, and to a lesser extent, improved the number of sports, disciplines, and events in which Gold Medals were won.
Gold medals won in different sports, disciplines and events
Medals won in different sports, disciplines and events
Nevertheless, it can be argued that the country raised the number of medals in different sports due to increased participation in different sports, disciplines, and events.
Team Brazil participation in different sports, disciplines and events
Thus, the capacity of qualifying athletes to compete in a wider range of sports, disciplines and especially events improved in 2004 and remained stable since then. This fact indicates that the nation still has a smaller capacity to win medals in the new sports, disciplines, and events on which the nation increased participation in the past three editions. Nevertheless, an increased number of participants in these emerging sports, disciplines, and events in 2004 was most likely a factor that influenced the drop of the conversion of finalists/medallists ratio in the same year. However, the ratio has been increasing since then and remains above the tenth places ratios. On the contrary, the finalists/gold medallist’s ratio increased in 2004 and decreased in the following edition. These facts indicate that these emerging sports, disciplines, and events have a lesser capacity to win medals. However, this capacity is already sufficient to win medals, and to a lesser extent to win gold medals.
These facts can be seen on the share of sports, disciplines, and events where Team Brazil won medals and gold medals.
Share of sports, disciplines and events where Team Brazil won medals
Share of sports, disciplines and events where Team Brazil won gold medals
Furthermore, the number of athletes and medals contested also increased since 1988, with a significant improvement in the number of athletes and medals contested by women, which shows a strong correlation between the number of female athletes and medals contested, and the growth of a number of participating sports, disciplines, and events. These strong correlations indicate that the growth of women participation expressively improved the range of sports, events, and disciplines that Team Brazil recently contested.
Team Brazil number of athletes and medals contested and medals achieved
Team Brazil number of qualified athletes by gender
Team Brazil number of medals contested by gender
These recent improvements in performance can be seen not only in the Olympic Games but also in the World Cups/Championships of the events to be contested in the 2016 Olympic Games. Since 1988, in the past Olympic cycles, Brazil improved its performance on both the World Cups and Olympic Games by increasing its number of finalists, medallists, and gold medallists. Also, there is an upward trend for finalists, medallists and gold medals on Word Cups/Championships (WC) and Olympic Games (OG), apart from gold medals achievements in Olympic Games, which remain stable since 2004.
Team Brazil World Cups and Olympic Games finalists
Team Brazil World Cups and Olympic Games medallists
Team Brazil World Cups and Olympic Games gold medallists
The analyses demonstrate that the constant changes of sports, events and disciplines removed a few disciplines on which Brazil won two gold medals in both 1996 and 2004, and also a few disciplines in which the nation was finalist and medallist, but none of them in a considerable proportion related to the total results. However, there is a strong correlation between the number of finalists and medallists on World Cups/Championships and Olympic Games. On the other hand, there is a moderate correlation between the number of Gold medals achieved in the World Cups and in the Olympic Games, showing that somehow, the Brazilian athletes or teams underperform on the expectation of winning gold medals at the Olympic Games. On the other hand, they usually repeat their performance of reaching finals and winning medals in the World Cups and in the Olympic Games.
This improvement on the current era of the modern Summer Olympic Games comes from a long-term strategy adopted by the Brazilian government a few decades ago.
Before winning the bid to host the Summer Olympic Games, the Brazilian government began to invest heavily in sports in 2004, when they launched the "Athlete Bursary" program to support elite athletes who achieve the results according to their individual sport criteria from several sports, with a monthly bursary to cover the athlete’s basic costs to live, allowing them to receive full-time training. Moreover, the programme gives preference to Olympic sports, but also covers non-Olympic sports in five levels of athletes: grassroots, scholar, national, international and Olympic. Furthermore, this programme was the most significant investments in elite sports until the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Completing a decade of existence it has granted more than 43 thousand bursaries and benefited 19,566 athletes. In 2015, the bursary is granting a total of 5,577 athletes of Olympic sports.
Winning the bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in 2009 was a catalyst for several public investments to place Brazil in the battle to achieve better results in elite sports. In 2012, the program “Medal Brazil” was launched to form new generations of Olympic sports athletes.
In addition, the program “Podium Bursary” was launched in August 2013 to reinforce the low values of individual granting which the program "Athlete Bursary" funds the athletes. However, only the athletes who achieve significant results in elite competitions have the right to receive the grant, showing that Brazil has a considerable number of athletes with chances to compete at a high level in the Summer Olympic Games. In the first year, there were a total of 128 athletes receiving this grant, which increased to 140 the following year. Nevertheless, the program indicates a small growth of elite athletes with the potential to win medals in elite sports competitions from 2014 to 2015.
Also, the program "Initiation on Sports Centres" was launched in 2013. The program is a partnership between several levels of governments to build 261 multisports training centres in 254 cities across all states, covering 14 Olympic sports as described below.
There are also other government programs which focus on the strategic approach to elite sports development, on which the government facilitates public and private companies to invest in several levels of the strategic approach. In addition, to integrate all the programs, the government created the program "National Training Network", which has the aim of integrating the sports facilities and offer space for talent identification, scientific research, grassroots formation, and athletes and teams training focused on Olympic Sports. The integration of the programs and policies carry aim to make investments and policies successful.
The wide range of sports receiving investments indicates that the government is adopting a decentralised strategy to develop elite sports within the country. However, the government began these massive changes in 2012, while the country won the bid to host the Summer Olympic Games three years prior to the beginning of these new approaches, which indicates that the nation might not enjoy the results of the sports system at 2016 Rio Olympic Games, as highlighted in the Rio 2016 forecast analysis. Although, it is claimed that playing at home might bring an advantage to the host nation due to several factors such as travel factors, learning/familiarity, rule factors and crowd factors.
In order to measure the number of additional Gold Medals and Total Medals that the past host nations won by hosting the games, the same methodology applied to forecast Rio 2016 results was applied to the last four Olympic Games and, according to the regression analysis, Australia were the only nation who underperforms by -0.62% in the Total Medals achievements.
Thus, applying the average home advantage of past nations to Brazil, it is expected that Team Brazil might win 2.41% of the Gold Medal share and 1.78% of the Total Medals share at Rio 2016. In absolute numbers, it represents eight Gold Medals and 18 Total Medals. So, by adding the home advantage average medals with the expected Brazilian regular performance measured in the Rio 2016 forecast, Brazil might win a total of 12 Gold Medals and 36 Medals, which will place Team Brazil within the top 10 ranking in both tables for the first time. Nevertheless, despite the recent substantial investments and creation of policies by the Brazilian Government to place the nation within the top 10 positions, this achievement will be only possible mostly due to the fact that Team Brazil will be playing at home and also due to the regular improvement of performance over the past Summer Games, and not mainly because of the recent increase of investments and change of policies made by the local government.