Despite the scandals, Sochi’s winter Olympics will open on Friday amid pomp and ceremony. Athletes from a record 88 countries (including Zimbabwe, Togo and Morocco for the first time) will compete for 98 medals in 15 different sporting disciplines. Views differ over whether Norway, America or Germany will come out at the top of the medals table—but Russia may still have a trick up its sleeve as the host nation.
A new study, just published in Current Directions in Psychological Science by Mark S. Allen from London South Bank University and Marc V. Jones from Staffordshire University, reviews research into the advantages of the home team in athletic competitions. There is not a single sport in which those taking part are consistently more successful when playing away; in fact those hosting contests win around 60% of the time as they benefit from the crowd, its effect on officials and not having to travel far.
It would seem then that Russia’s team should gain a boost from competing in Sochi, but the study also suggests that the fear of losing in front of your nearest and dearest fans can cause stress debilitating to performance.
The nature of the screaming and shouting done by crowds, and their size, affects the scale of the advantage given to home athletes: big groups cheering will help more than small groups swearing. The noise generated will also, research suggests, influence even the gravest official, as those presiding over contests remember the outcomes of past decisions when making ones in the present. A spurious yellow card or misguided disqualification, and the angry reaction it inspires from the crowd, will linger in an official’s memory and influence his next move.
Read the whole story: The Economist
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