In an ordinary Olympic games, Britain racks up 5 or 6 gold medals: this time, we have 16 and counting – marvellous news, incredible work on the part of Team GB, etc etc. But also, in a sense a slightly raw deal for some of the athletes involved, as while the pot of fame and endorsements available to successful Olympians will be bigger than usual, it probably won’t be three times as big. Please don’t take this the wrong way: I’m not suggesting that fame and fortune is the main reason any of our athletes compete, but it’s got to be a nice bonus, and the fact is that following these Games some of our winners are going to end up a lot more famous than others.

It was not ever thus – take Britain’s performance at the Barcelona Olympics. Five golds, and four of the athletes involved became more or less household names. But the Beijing mob surely won’t fare quite so well: in fact looking at the media you can already see who’s being groomed for future stardom (in the British sense of the word, i.e. a comfy berth on a daytime TV sofa whenever needed).

What is the FAME FORMULA for Olympic success? In the grand tradition of bogus equations I give you this:

F = (A * C)/R

F, clearly, stands for FAME. The level of F determines your later station in life, whether it be beloved sporting ambassador, tut-tutting commentator, or advertising WellMan supplements on the tube.

A stands for ACHIEVEMENT. Winning an medal is an achievement, obviously, but this also includes factors like age, overcoming adversity, winning our first medal in something for a grillion years, losing it completely on the podium, etc.

C stands for CELEBGENICNESS, a complex word for a complex concept, as it encompasses things like future potential, down-to-earthness, audience being able to relate to, audience finding hott, and so on.

Finally, R stands for RUBNESS OF SPORT. This is a technical term involving the sport’s esteem in the eyes of the Great British Public, and the extent to which they can understand what happens in it.

A final factor is that there are only so many ‘slots’ available in the public consciousness for any given sport – we can win all the rowing medals we like, for example, but Redgrave and Pinsent have a lock on the Famous Rowers slots for now, even though they don’t actually race any more. This significantly limits the chances of any of the new crop becoming famous (at least after these Olympics, but possibly forever: consider the Famous Ice Skaters slot). There are a lot more slots open to track athletes, comparatively few for field athletes, potentially quite a few for swimmers, and so on.

Looking at our medalists in this games and applying the Fame Formula, the blindingly obvious winner is Rebecca Adlington: massive achievement, high celebgenicness, sport we vaguely care about, and an easy (too bloody easy) angle for non-sporting coverage viz. “likes shoes”. You can already see the media getting very excited and I hope she can handle it (this in itself is yet another angle – the oh now her life will change story). Adlington’s high Fame score will have a detrimental effect on some of our other winners, who fit a similar bubbly, down-to-earth bracket. Even though they’re in different sports, I’m guessing if it wasn’t for Adlington, Nicole Cooke would come out of these Games more famous than she will (except in Wales!).

You can see the media sizing up other athletes too – Rebecca Romero’s performance in two different disciplines is awesome, but the angle on her seems to be “she’s a mentalist”: scarily driven and very obviously different from the rest of us, whereas with the ‘nice’ athletes we can sort of ignore all the punishing training schedules and what they might imply about someone’s personality. This will limit her post-Games fame, which is a pity I think.

Who else? Christine Ohoruogu will get a big push as a Londoner, though the raging arguments on the BBC Sports Blog (and elsewhere) over her missed-tests bans suggest that the route to future fame won’t be that easy. The rowers are doomed, as is the Laser class sailing guy since i. his event is deceitfully named and ii. people have only just got their heads around Ben Ainslie being properly famous. Cycling is an interesting case – enormous medal haul means people will know more about it, so the R score decreases and more slots open up – Wiggins and Hoy will both step up a fame grade.

Then we’re into the “minor medals”, where people will also be a bit hard done by owing to the sheer bulk of GB medals around: ordinarily a couple of silver or bronze medalists push on to future fame, but in Beijing Louis Smith looks the only likely candidate so far, and in the current medal-drunk climate Britain winning a men’s gymnastics medal has been downgraded from “HOLY SHIT” to “only bronze?”. No room either for plucky losers, which is probably a good thing for the future success of British sport but I feel a bit sorry for Tom Daley, who’s turned from glorious hope to pub quiz answer inside of a week. (I don’t feel that sorry though, since he reminds me weirdly of James Harries).

I’m sure that come 2012 even the forgotten names will come flooding back to those of us who only pay attention every four years, but – like seeing what happens to Big Brother contestants – it’s going to be fascinating watching the ebb and flow of medalist fame. At the very least, this bumper crop should mean some vicious battles for commentary slots come 2024.