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Incentive Effects in Tournaments with Heterogeneous Competitors – an Analysis of the Olympic Rowing Regatta in Sydney 2000


  • Norbert Bach

    () (Department of Management and Organization, Ilmenau University of Technology, Helmholtzplatz 3, D – 98684, Ilmenau, Germany)

  • Oliver Guertler

    () (Department of Economics, BWL II, University of Bonn, Adenauerallee 24-42, D – 53113 Bonn, Germany)

  • Joachim Prinz

    () (Department of Management, University of Paderborn, Warburgerstr. 100, D – 33098 Paderborn, Germany)


A large part of the theoretical tournament literature argues that rank-order tournaments only unfold their incentive effects if the contestants all have similar prospects of winning. In heterogeneous fields, the outcome of the tournament is relatively clear and the contestants reduce their effort. However, empirical evidence for this so-called contamination hypothesis is sparse. An analysis of 442 showings at the Olympic Rowing Regatta in Sydney 2000 gives evidence that oarsmen spare effort in heterogeneous heats. This implies that competition among staffs with heterogeneous skill levels does not bring about the intended effort levels. However, a separate subgroup analysis shows that only the tournament favourites hold back effort whereas underdogs bring out their best when competing against dominant rivals. A heterogeneous tournament could then be enriched by absolute performance standards to increase incentives of the favourites.

Suggested Citation

  • Norbert Bach & Oliver Guertler & Joachim Prinz, 2009. "Incentive Effects in Tournaments with Heterogeneous Competitors – an Analysis of the Olympic Rowing Regatta in Sydney 2000," management revue. Socio-economic Studies, Rainer Hampp Verlag, vol. 20(3), pages 239-253.
  • Handle: RePEc:rai:mamere:1861-9908_mrev_2009_3_bach

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:bla:ecinqu:v:55:y:2017:i:4:p:1759-1770 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Hammond, Robert G. & Zheng, Xiaoyong, 2013. "Heterogeneity in tournaments with incomplete information: An experimental analysis," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 248-260.

    More about this item


    tournaments; heterogeneity; incentive effects; effort;

    JEL classification:

    • A10 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - General
    • A12 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines
    • J20 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - General


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