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31/07/2008 No.6
rendspotting Editor's Choice
Dan Roebuck
Saturday July 31, 2008
  Bank on Britain's best squad for a generation to outmedal Italians

Bookmakers have traditionally avoided the vast majority of the 302 events that make up the Olympic Games. However, with a little over a week to go before Beijing 2008 begins, a number of layers have decided to price up virtually all of the 28 sports in which medals are awarded.

Ladbrokes hopes to offer odds on every single event over the course of the Games and, like Bet365, Blue Square, Boylesports, Coral and Sky Bet, already has a comprehensive list of markets available. At this stage, though, they all have been outdone by the Irish firm Paddy Power, who, for example, has priced up every weight category in the women's judo. An estimated £20m is expected to be gambled industry-wide, with Paddy Power's spokesman Darren Haines predicting: "The vast majority of money will be gambled on the men's track and field events, the Olympic football tournament and the men's singles tennis event. Swimming, surprisingly, is also popular as is any British medal hope."

China are favourites to top the medal table, but the evens that was available around the turn of the year has disappeared and the best you will see now about the hosts winning the most gold medals is 8-15 (Paddy Power). The United States are 19-10 (Sportingbet) and it is 50-1 bar.

The best bet when it comes to medal hauls is backing Great Britain to win more medals of any colour than Italy - available at 10-11 with Ladbrokes. Italy, who are sending 347 athletes to China, have finished above Great Britain in the medal table at every Games since they did so in 1980 but, crucially, in purely numerical terms Team GB have managed to win more of any colour than Italy in four of those last seven Olympics.

Moreover, Great Britain's squad of 313 is arguably the best they have sent to the Games in the modern era. Sporting Index quotes Team GB's gold medal haul at 11.2-11.7, which gives us an indication of how many they will achieve, and Italy do not appear to have as many realistic gold-medal hopes as Great Britain.

Britain, of course, have a number of "good things" for patriotic punters to bet on, but most are at cramped odds. Ben Ainslie is 1-7 (Paddy Power) to win gold in the Finn class of sailing while Great Britain are 1-3 (Ladbrokes) to win the team pursuit in the men's cycling. More medals at the velodrome should follow, as Britain's track cyclists won nine golds and two silvers at the world championships in March.

Tim Brabants, though, is not the market leader in the 100m kayak. Paddy Power offers 11-4, with the Canadian Adam van Koeverden the 6-4 favourite. Britain's best boxing hope for gold, Frankie Gavin, is trading at 5-2 (Ladbrokes and Paddy Power) behind the Russian Alexey Tishchenko. But they are both odds-on to win a medal of any colour, while Phillips Idowu (8-5, Sportingbet, triple jump) and Kelly Sotherton (7-1, Ladbrokes, heptathlon) are two of four athletes to receive single-figure odds quotes to win a track and field gold.

The 100m is the marquee event of the Games and it looks to be a three-horse race with Usain Bolt the favourite at 8-5 (Sportingbet) ahead of Tyson Gay (9-4, Ladbrokes) and Asafa Powell (3-1, Bet Direct). Gay won the 2007 world title but had hamstring trouble in the US trials (pulling up in the 200m), nor has Powell's preparation been ideal (he has been hampered by a shoulder injury this year), so the world record holder Bolt gets the nod.

The football tournament is very popular among punters, with many familiar names playing for the major nations. Argentina are the 9-4 (Blue Square) favourites to win gold (as they did in 2004) and include Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano and Juan Riquelme in their squad. The inclusion of the lesser-known Anderlecht defender Nicolás Pareja as one of their over-age players raised a few eyebrows, though, and if Sergio Batista's team are weak at the back it could be worth siding with Brazil.

Brazil, the five-time World Cup winners, have never lifted the Olympic title and Dunga is desperate to put that right. Ronaldinho inclusion could turn out to be a masterstroke and, at 11-4 (Bet Direct and Stan James), they are worth a flutter.
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