Even before they officially began, the 2008 Beijing Olympics have already been kind to sports bettors and bookmakers. The political issues surrounding the Olympic Games sparked a series of protests around the torch relay, and some nation leaders began openly reconsidering their Olympic policies. This led bookmakers to offer unique betting lines such as “who will be the first country to boycott the opening ceremony”. Punters wagering on Germany took home a nice payout of 10:1 after German chancellor Angela Merkel was first to announce she will not attend the ceremony.
The 2008 Beijing Olympics have had a very political start, but sports fans are hoping for action of a different nature. The best athletes in the world will each compete on the most prestigious platforms their sports offer. China dreams not only of becoming a political and economical power, but also a major force in world sports. China never made public the official amount it spends on sports programs, but experts believe it has spent between $400 and $500 million in the last four years leading up to the games. The US, in comparison, has spent around $210 million during the same period of time. The message is clear – China is going for gold.
China has already succeeded on an important psychological level – it has won the respect of the bookmakers, which favor China to win the most gold medals overall. In case anyone needs to be reminded, “Most gold medals overall” is easily the most significant accomplishment (and therefore wager) of the Olympics, at least from a national point of view. The bookmakers are going against history with this prediction, but they believe China has a good chance. The nation hosting the Olympics typically gets more medals than usual for several reasons: Firs, home crowds are a great inspiration to their athletes, who are familiar with the venues. Furthermore, the host country qualifies automatically in team sports such as football, softball and baseball, so it ends up participating in more events. China has also seen a steady rise in its medal count for the last two decades, mainly due to the breakup of the Soviet Union. In the 2004 Athens Games, China came second only to the US in the gold medal count. China finished with 32 golds and 63 medals overall, while the US won 36 gold medals and 102 medals overall.
If the bookmakers are right, this will be a great upset to the US, and may mark the beginning of a new era in world sports (not to mention world politics). The US team has been leading the overall gold medal category since Atlanta 1996, so Beijing may be the beginning of a revolution. The odds of that happening, at least in the eyes of most bookmakers, are quite good. They are willing to pay only between 1:2 (1.50 in decimal) and 1:1 (2.00 decimal) in case China completes the mission. US gets a payout of 6:4 (2.50 decimal) on most sports betting sites, and Russia comes in third, with 20:1 (21.00 decimal). No other countries are considered for this bet.
One event that never fails to draw attention is the men’s 100 meters sprint, the race that determines the identity of “the fastest man in the world”. Two giants will collide on the track in Beijing. Holder of the current world record of 9.74 seconds, Jamaican Asafa Powell, will attempt to win his first Olympic medal. Though he still holds this amazing unbeaten world record, he is considered an underdog by the bookmakers, who are offering a payout of 11:4 (3.75 decimal) if he wins. Betting on American Tyson Gay pays out considerably less – 5:4 (2.25). The rising star with no Olympic medals under his belt is favored mainly due to his recent performance at the 2007 IAAF World Championships in Athletics, where Gay defeated Powell with a time of 9.85 seconds, and became the new 100 meters world champion.