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Rule changes to Olympic Games events are likely to result in more nations than ever before winning medals at London 2012, according to experts who have already predicted a bumper medals haul for Team GB. 

The Sport Industry Research Centre (SIRC) at Sheffield Hallam University says that under normal circumstances it would be expected that 53 nations will win a gold medal and 80 nations will win a medal of any colour. 

However rule changes limiting the number of medals that nations can contest could increase the number of medal-winning nations at London 2012 to an all-time high.  The current record for nations winning a gold medal is 56 (Athens 2004) and for any medal the record is 86 (Beijing 2008).

Professor Simon Shibli, who predicted that Team GB will win 27 gold medals at London 2012, believes the event could see a record number of nations winning medals for three key reasons.

He said: "More nations are taking part in the Olympic Games and it is expected that 204 National Olympic Committees will send teams to London 2012.  In 1988, 159 nations attended the Seoul Olympics and this figure has risen steadily since then.

"More nations than ever have developed genuine medal-winning capability and are no longer there to make up the numbers and enjoy the opening ceremony.  More nations are investing large sums of money in elite sport development systems.

"Also, changes to the qualification rules in some sports will ensure that medals are shared out amongst a greater number of nations.  This is bad news for Team GB's track cyclists who already know that they will win fewer medals than they did in Beijing.  In track cycling, nations can contest only one medal per event and there will be no more scenes of Sir Chris Hoy winning gold and Jason Kenny joining him on the podium for silver. 

"Rules in taekwondo enable nations to contest only four of the eight events on offer and in weightlifting nations can contest a maximum of 10 of the 45 medals available. 

"These three factors will combine to help deliver what IOC president Jacques Rogge describes as a 'real universality' of the Olympic Games and prevents certain nations from becoming too dominant."

Professor Shibli added that most of the 204 nations taking part in London 2012 will go home empty handed, notably the vast majority of the 80 or so nations never to have won an Olympic medal.

 In 2008, 151 nations did not win a gold medal and 118 did not win a medal of any colour.  The best bet for a nation that has never won an Olympic medal before to break its duck is Botswana, which stands an excellent chance of a medal in the form of World, Commonwealth and African champion Amantle Monsho in the women's 400m (track).

He said: "Nations not winning medals need to draw positives from alternative measures of success such as the number of athletes qualifying to take part, the number of places achieved in a top eight position but outside the medals, the number of different sports contested and the number of season's bests, personal bests and national records broken."


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