I’ve Got The United States Ranked 30th In Olympics Medal Count

Typically, we see medal counts ranking countries by raw medal numbers. Something like this, where the total score is derived by having the Gold worth 3, Silver worth 2, and Bronze worth 1. (This isn’t a complete count — I got sick of cleaning tabular data.)

Country Gold Silver Bronze "Total"
1 United States 20 17 12 106
2 China 20 13 10 96
3 Russia 7 13 14 61
4 Germany 10 9 11 59
5 Australia 11 7 11 58
6 Japan 12 5 5 51
7 France 6 8 7 41
8 Korea 5 10 5 40
9 Italy 6 6 6 36
9 Great Britain 5 7 7 36
11 Netherlands 3 6 7 28
12 Ukraine 6 2 5 27
13 Romania 5 0 2 17
13 Belarus 2 3 5 17
15 Greece 3 1 3 14
16 Hungary 2 3 1 13
16 Poland 2 2 3 13
18 Slovakia 2 2 1 11
18 Spain 0 5 1 11
20 Turkey 3 0 1 10
21 Cuba 0 2 5 9
22 Georgia 2 1 0 8
22 Thailand 2 0 2 8
24 Indonesia 1 1 2 7
24 South Africa 1 1 2 7
24 Bulgaria 1 0 4 7
24 Denmark 1 0 4 7
24 Austria 0 3 1 7
24 DPR Korea 0 3 1 7
30 Zimbabwe 1 1 1 6
30 Croatia 0 2 2 6
30 Czech Republic 0 2 2 6
33 Ethiopia 1 1 0 5
33 Belgium 1 0 2 5
33 Canada 0 2 1 5
36 Chile 1 0 1 4
36 Sweden 1 0 1 4
36 Switzerland 1 0 1 4
39 New Zealand 1 0 0 3
39 Norway 1 0 0 3
39 United Arab Emirates 1 0 0 3

But, this approach doesn’t take into account what I consider an obvious advantage of the leading countries — population size. Of course the United States has a lot of medals — it has a lot of people from which to draw a select group of athletes. If you factor a country’s population size into their total, you get a very different ranking. “Score” is the “Total” divided by the population, multiplied by 10,000,000 (to get a nice, readable number).

Country Gold Silver Bronze "Total" Population Score
1 Australia 11 7 11 58 19,731,984 29.39
2 Slovakia 2 2 1 11 5,430,033 20.26
3 Netherlands 3 6 7 28 16,150,511 17.34
4 Belarus 2 3 5 17 10,322,151 16.47
5 Georgia 2 1 0 8 4,934,413 16.21
6 Croatia 0 2 2 6 4,422,248 13.57
7 Greece 3 1 3 14 10,665,989 13.13
8 Denmark 1 0 4 7 5,384,384 13.00
9 Hungary 2 3 1 13 10,045,407 12.94
10 U Arab Emirates 1 0 0 3 2,484,818 12.07
11 Bulgaria 1 0 4 7 7,537,929 9.29
12 Austria 0 3 1 7 8,188,207 8.55
13 Korea 5 10 5 40 48,289,037 8.28
14 Cuba 0 2 5 9 11,263,429 7.99
15 Romania 5 0 2 17 22,271,839 7.63
16 New Zealand 1 0 0 3 3,951,307 7.59
17 Germany 10 9 11 59 82,398,326 7.16
18 France 6 8 7 41 60,180,529 6.81
19 Norway 1 0 0 3 4,546,123 6.60
20 Italy 6 6 6 36 57,998,353 6.21
21 Great Britain 5 7 7 36 60,094,648 5.99
22 Czech Republic 0 2 2 6 10,249,216 5.85
23 Ukraine 6 2 5 27 48,055,439 5.62
24 Switzerland 1 0 1 4 7,318,638 5.47
25 Belgium 1 0 2 5 10,289,088 4.86
26 Zimbabwe 1 1 1 6 12,576,742 4.77
27 Sweden 1 0 1 4 8,878,085 4.51
28 Russia 7 13 14 61 144,526,278 4.22
29 Japan 12 5 5 51 127,214,499 4.01
30 United States 20 17 12 106 290,342,554 3.65
31 Poland 2 2 3 13 38,622,660 3.37
32 DPR Korea 0 3 1 7 22,466,481 3.12
33 Spain 0 5 1 11 40,217,413 2.74
34 Chile 1 0 1 4 15,665,216 2.55
35 South Africa 1 1 2 7 42,768,678 1.64
36 Canada 0 2 1 5 32,207,113 1.55
37 Turkey 3 0 1 10 68,109,469 1.47
38 Thailand 2 0 2 8 64,265,276 1.24
39 Ethiopia 1 1 0 5 66,557,553 0.75
40 China 20 13 10 96 1,286,975,468 0.75
41 Indonesia 1 1 2 7 234,893,453 0.30

Congratulations, Australia, Slovakia, and the Netherlands, for being the leading countries (so far)!

64 thoughts on “I’ve Got The United States Ranked 30th In Olympics Medal Count

  1. Actually, Australia comes in dead last! In this sample of nations, Australia trails behind everyone, including France, the Netherlands, and Britain. Per capita data means nothing for reasons others have adequately pointed out.
    What’s far more relevant is your teams “success rate” or, put another way, what percentage of your athletes won medals. The CBS website lists lots of stats including the number of athletes each country sent. btw – Australia sent more athletes than China!! LOL (and Russia…and Germany…and Britain….and France..)

    Still, only 10% of Australias athletes came home with a medal, that’s pretty poor compared to 20% of Russians and 16% of Americans. Australia even came behind the Brits. So next time you start bragging and slagging off other nations, you might want to think twice. The US more than doubled your medal count – pretty impressive considering they’ve haven’t got all that many more athletes than you – 647 athletes to 489.

    Here’s the tally. Sorry Mate :(

    449 athletes-Russia
    92 medals – 20%

    647 American team
    103 medals – 16%

    396 Chinese team
    63 medals – 16%

    469 german team
    57 medals – 12%

    315 french team
    38 medals- 12%

    218 dutch team
    25 medals – 11%

    271 british team
    30 medals- 11%

    489 Aussie team
    49 medals – 10%

  2. Oh come on! The number of athletes sent to the Olympics by a country is a red herring! For a “good enough” nation, the number you send is dictated by the number of disciplines in which you compete.

    This is simply because competitions have a cap – e.g. only 3 athletes per nation in the marathon (“choose your best 3, because there are only 3 medals”). In addition, Australia qualified for more team events than, say, France (football: 1 medal, 22 athletes).

    The point of a pro capita statistic is that, no matter how many athletes you send, you had a large pool of people to choose them from.

    More interestingly, has anyone done a “medal per pro-capita GDP” stat?

  3. Sorry Om. I think it’s all well and good for Australia to send in that many athletes – nothing wrong with that. But the point is you can’t than turn around and boast about a per capita medal haul when you are so disproportionately represented. The rather antagonistic object of this topic – as stated in the title ‘I’ve got the US in 30th place’ is obviously to cast the US in a poor light and make a disparaging comparison of the US athletic team to the Australian athletic team by drawing per capita conclusions.
    Obviously, the US has a larger pool to choose from. But it would only be fair to consider per capita figures if the US was allowed to send more (specifically, 15 times more) athletes per event than Australia is allowed. If US vs. Aussie representation was proportional to their relative populations, then the US would have sent in 7500 and would likely have won 1500 medals. If you really want to debate whose athletic team is best (and I think doing so is arrogant, nationalistic, and petty by the way, but you Aussies started it) the only fair analysis is the one offered by sami, which reflects each teams medal percentage and in that context the Russians, NOT Australia and NOT the US, are the hands down winners.

    Also, you can’t expect to start a discussion clearly designed to belittle and insult another nation and not have others point out the holes in your theory.

  4. “you Aussies”? Not everyone who’s not American is an Aussie. In particular, I am not. And believe it or not, you don’t have to be Australian to admire their performance at sports. In case you’re not exposed to this view, it is shared by a lot of people around the world. I think you’re unfair to peterme: I don’t think that the topic was meant to cast the US in a bad light (how so?) but to show that there are countries that do amazingly well considering the small pool of people to choose from.

    Are countries like Australia overrepresented? Here is the flaw in that argument: assuming that nations send their best athletes, then a Mongolian that wins a gold does so by beating the best American (amongst others). Since he’s better than the best American, he very probably would have beaten any number of Americans you could have sent to the Olympics.
    If the above is true (and I know it’s not *always* true, but not that unreasonable an approximation), putting a cap of three athletes per nation in any competition makes sense in terms of medal winning. Sadly, it makes non-medal placements useless for statistical purposes, which is a shame, as they would have been very meaningful in this discussion.

    Maybe the results of the analysis should have been rephrased as follows: “at the Olympics the best Australian has beaten the best American far more times than you’d expect from the sizes of their population”. I think that’s hard to argue against.

    By the way, sending large teams to competitions (which was what the USA used to do- I remember a 100m final with 7 US athletes) also causes unfair advantages: to mention the most obvious, the possibility to exploit teamwork in individual competitions (e.g. long-distance running, cycling etc.).

  5. Out of curiosity, how would a team of 7500 athletes win 1500 medals when there were 929 to be won? If the whole population of the US had taken part, they probably would have still won… well… around 103 medals… if would just have been a much more boring event.

    By the way, *every* athlete in the USA takes part in the Olympics, in case you did not notice. It’s just that most get eliminated earlier… :-)

  6. A final comment: one thing that amazes me about the pro capita statistic (and I think detractors of this measure should consider this carefully) is that the large EU countries have had astoundingly homogeneous results: in the final tally, Germany, Italy, France, Britain and Spain are all 1.7 to 2.1 million people/medal, all around 30th place (US is at #41).
    Also coherent results come from Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazhakhstan and the Ukraine all 1.5 to 1.9, with the Baltic states and Belarus performing significantly better (between .45 ad .7). Interestingly, Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovenia are in the same range.

  7. People may ridicule or laugh at India but then one should realise India is not a country, it is a world…with a population of over a Billion people living under a democratic system with 900 languages and dialects, a variety of places and climates, a country ravaged by centuries of occupation, a country which is a victim of International politics. The Hindu majority country having a Muslim as a President and a Minority Sikh as a Prime Minister should evoke strong feeling of world-wide respect and recognition. What they are doing is next to impossible, but they are doing it. Watch out, it is the country which will be the future Super Power and it will produce the best.

  8. Om – “More interestingly, has anyone done a “medal per pro-capita GDP” stat?”

    want to take advantage of Australias – any many other countries- relative laziness and lack of production? ;-)

    GDP is a pretty silly thing to compare, especially among western nations…it will make no difference. (poor African nations, naturally, have terrible obstacles to overcome…of course, many athletes from poorer countries are able to train in the United States. And many poor nations, like the Dominican Republic, are represented by American athletes like their gold medal winner in athens (can’t remember his name) he was American, but raced for D. R. because his grandfather was Dominican). So, he had the best training in the US, went on to get a gold medal for a dirt poor nation. Now how would that GDP thing work again? I acknowledge that athletes from poor nations that have access to little funds are all the more impressive for it. But don’t even try to suggest that US athletes have an unfair advantage over countries like Australia because our GDP is so much higher.
    How would you factor in Australias climate and the fact that most Australians live within close proximity to the water? Definite unfair advantage over countries like the US, Britain, Germany, and Canada.

  9. GDP? get real! It’s actually olympic funding that counts. Several Australians here and on other sites love to make the “GDP per capita tally” argument – no doubt to exaggerate their success even further than their pathetic ” we’ve got more medals per capita” claim. GDP means nothing considering Australias “olympic training budget”. Australia spends far, far, FAR more per athlete than almost all other nations, many of which have a much higher GDP than Australia. Similarly, the Soviet Union and East Germany had very low GDPs, but were Olympic superstars because of the money that poured into their athletic training.

    Nice try. Look, the US produces great athletes (for summer AND winter olympics, unlike Australia). Just get over it and move on.

    I

  10. “Please. the whole point of this topic was to begrudge and put down the American olympic team while stroking your own egos. And based on the comments of some of your compatriots on this board, I have to laugh when you talk about how laid back Aussies are. I’m not the one injecting aggression here.”

    Awww diddums. Does someone need a hug? come on julie.. have your red,white and blue knickers been twisted? The point of the topic doesn’t seem to me to be to put down Americans at all. It’s just to generate discussion – which it has. If there were another nation at the top then THEY would be the comparison point…

    and i guess you need to be exposed to the aussie culture to understand that ‘taking the piss’ is a national past-time…. all I see here is some classic winding up (and ‘zinggg’ some took the bait).

    If participation is one of the aims of the Olympics then maybe we should look at numbers of athletes qualifying at Olympic standard in relation to number of potential athletes available in a nation (ie population between 12 and… whatever the eldest person is demented enough to want that gain for the amount of pain.. for example ONLY) Number of athletes sent is perhaps not a negative measure yeah?

    And amount of money invested in each athlete is quite difficult to judge considering that the cultures of nations differ considerably with regard to the giving of funds (is giving to an athlete considered philanthropy in your local church/pub/community?)

    lesson in here? nothing is as it seems. When it comes down to it, is the Olympics celebrating national achievement or individual achievement anyway?

    Citius, altius, fortius.

    “Baron de Coubertin borrowed the motto from Father Henri Martin Dideon, the headmaster of Arcueil College in Paris. Father Dideon used the motto to describe the great achievements of the athletes at his school. Coubertin felt it could be used to describe the goals of great athletes all over the World.”

    Canuck, what’s a ‘winter’ mate? :-P

  11. Oh.. just to be entirely childish now… when i look back through the comments.. Julie.. if you don’t like the tone, you shouldn’t have led the way (ie you started it matey potatey).

    also… I’m not entirely certain, but Peter Merholtz doesn’t appear to be Australian (although, since he’s pretty clever, we may want to adopt him as a brain-athlete huh? ;-) ) so he doesn’t appear to have any particular motive for showing Australia (in particular)in a positive light.

    Just a thought. or two.

    lastly.. aussie aussie aussie oi oi oi ;-)

  12. Anybody any idea why Britain sends a “Great Britain” team to the Olympics, but in Rugby or Football it’s typically four individual teams; England, Scotland, Wales and [Northern] Ireland?
    In cricket there’s really only one world class British team, and that’s “England”, although many a Scot or Welshman has played for England.
    Most confusing…

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  14. This “study” is ridiculous. Not all competitions have representatives from every country included. The majority of medals won by Australia, Slovakia, and the Netherlands came in competitions where they were likely not directly competing against Americans or were competing in a sport which is a very small niche sport in America where America had no population advantage because the sport is not popular.

    I’d love an analysis of the sports where, for example, Slovakia won their whopping 11 medals.