Great Britain to press home the advantage in London

(Photo credit: London 2012)

The briefest mention of home invokes images of comfort, familiarity and security. So it is not surprising that research consistently shows sports teams and athletes typically perform better at home.

This is also true in the Olympics. The host nation wins approximately three times more medals in ‘home’ Olympics compared with Olympics where they are not the host nation.

Perhaps this effect reflects the familiarity and confidence that comes from training and competing in the stadia and arenas where the events will take place. Or perhaps it reflects the tendency for countries hosting the Olympics to invest more resources in their teams and athletes – performances by a host nation are strong in the Olympics preceding and following the games they host which may reflect the initial impetus and legacy of this investment.

But there may be other reasons why athletes perform better at home, and exploring the sports in which this occurs can help us understand why Olympians have a home advantage. 

One frequently suggested reason is that a supportive crowd may boost athletes’ performances.  However, research suggests that while people perceive a supportive crowd to help performance, this is does not actually translate to better performance and indeed may even cause some to perform worse if they become worried about letting the audience down.

A supportive crowd may play an important role, though ,in improving performance in some sports by influencing officials to favour home teams or athletes. The host nation does not perform better in all sports, but rather in those that require subjective decision-making by officials.

So in London 2012 Great Britain and Northern Ireland should do better than expected in sports such as gymnastics, boxing and team games such as hockey, thanks to the home crowd. 

For more news and features during the Olympics and Paralympics visit our Going for Gold website.