2016 Olympics betting preview: Tread carefully on the punt in Rio

Updated: August 3, 2016


The Olympic Games may rank alongside the FIFA World Cup is scale and prestige on the world sporting landscape, but that’s not the case when it comes to betting turnover. Wagering interest in the Olympic skyrocketed for London 2012 but it is still modest compared the majority of the mainstream betting sports. The 2016 edition of the Games in Rio de Janeiro should provide some great viewing with such amazing backdrops, but our betting interest is lukewarm at best. Like a long list of the world’s best golfers who declared Rio a no-go, we’ve elected to skip the bulk of the Games from a betting perspective.



Breaking it down

There are certain sports that we advise punters to avoid altogether. Sports that rely heavily on a judge’s subjective opinion such as boxing, diving and gymnastics should be a no-go zone. We’ll also never bet sports that have a history of systematic doping like road cycling and, by extension, we also won’t touch track cycling and triathlon. Sports like judo, badminton, wrestling, rowing, shooting and archery are also too niche to generate much meaningful data. The other problem with betting such traditional Olympic sports is the difficulty actually getting a bet on. Anything above a relatively small wager will immediately be flagged by the bookmaker.


Market interest

The larger betting pools for events at Rio will be built on athletics, swimming, basketball and, to a lesser extent, tennis, golf, hockey, Rugby Sevens and football. We’re always slightly leery of athletics and swimming due to the long history of doping in both sports, which goes far, far beyond anything the Russians may have cooked up. But for the astute punter who’s done his or her homework in the lead-up, there’s definitely money to be made. The basketball tournament may be missing the very elite of the NBA, but it’s otherwise a very competitive and keenly contested Olympic sport.

The Olympic football tournament has a proud history but is limited to players aged under 23 (with three ‘over-age’ players permitted on each squad. Given the popularity of football in South America, there’ll be plenty of liquidity in these markets. Watch the early rounds of the tennis before dipping your toe as these tournaments are well down the list when it comes to priorities, especially with the US Open coming up so soon. Golf returns to the Olympics for the first time since 1904, and the bulk of the world’s best players have said “thanks, but no thanks”. However, the global nature of both fields could provide some tasty value.



Block out the hype

We constantly warn punters of the dangers of relying on information provided by “experts” in the mainstream media, with the Olympics probably the best example of this mantra. There’s not a media organisation on the planet that can turn to a fencing expert or a rhythmic gymnastics aficionado on their staff so they wing it for the Olympics. There’s every chance that you know more than the talking head about archery, canoe slalom or BMX racing. They’ll also talk up the chances of athletes from their home country even if they have as much chance of winning as avoiding a stomach virus.

As a generalisation, you’ll also find “obvious” favourites way under the odds. Take the men’s 5000m where Great Britain’s Mo Farah is a $1.28 favourite. His best form resides back in 2011 with his most recent title the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award for Inspirational Athlete. Click on to YouTube and check out the 2016 form of Ethiopia’s Muktar Edris, who is currently priced at $11 for the same event. The media will latch on to a superstar like a Rio pickpocket onto an unattended bag, so don’t let the hype blind you from the reality.


Prop ’til you drop

Like all major sporting events these days, there’s a healthy supply of prop betting options available. The majority relate to the medal tables with a stack of ‘over/under’ options on gold medals and overall medals for pretty much every nation on the planet. One of the best guides we’ve spotted has been produced by the Associated Press (arguably the only organisation on the planet that has an expert for every Olympic sport). They quizzed their staff for medal predictions on every event in Rio, which can be found here.


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