If American track star Sydney McLaughlin competes in the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, she'll be nearly 3,000 miles away from her New Jersey home. McLaughlin will still be in her home country but will she have home-field advantage?
Los Angeles reached an agreement with the International Olympic Committee to host the 2028 Summer Games. The city was originally competing with Paris for the 2024 Games but the IOC announced in June that — with two very strong candidates — they would award 2024 to one city and 2028 to the other. Paris will host in 2024. It will be the first Olympics in the United States since Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Winter Games and the first Summer Olympics since Atlanta hosted in 1996. It will be the third time Los Angeles hosts (1932 and 1984).
Though most of the athletes in the 2028 Games are still unknown youth or amateur athletes, there's a good chance now 17-year-old Sydney McLaughlin — who competed in the 400-meter hurdles in 2016 — will be there. If so, what type of home-field advantage does she and other Americans have?
Last August, FiveThirtyEight did a breakdown of the difference in medal count from the year before the country hosted (since 1948) to the year they did host (and we added results from the 2016 Games). Of the last 17 Olympics, only twice has a host country won fewer medals during the host year than the year before it. On average, countries capture 20 more medals during their host year.
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Clearly, this isn't enough data to make a reasonable conclusion.
There are many reasons for the huge uptick in medal count, among them the number of athletes participating and oftentimes a wider variety of events. Click here to see the dramatic increase in number of athletes a host nation sends compared to the year before, an increase partly aided by lower qualification standards for individual events and guaranteed spots for team events.
FiveThirtyEight then breaks down the relationship between participation level and medal count by comparing the ratio of medals to participants for host nations. While hosts of Summer Olympics win more total medals, the average medals won per athlete actually declines — though they do note "this result is not statistically distinguishable from a difference of zero."
So will Sydney McLaughlin have home-field advantage in 2028? Unlikely, though a staggering number of variables ultimately make the results inconclusive.