An Inordinate Amount of Data Collection: Or, Why Grenada is Truly the Leader in the Olympic Medal Count

Posted: August 16, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

The Olympics are over, which makes me sad. However, that means that NBC’s jingoistic not-coverage is also over, which makes me happy. Because in the United States, all the Olympics we got were All America All The Time, I didn’t get to see much of the other countries’ events. I didn’t see any table tennis, or badminton. I barely got to see horse riding. And I only caught the last five minutes of one soccer game– the men’s gold medal match between Brazil and Mexico. (I was glad that Mexico won, however.)

And I will admit it: the United States is a sports powerhouse. We won 104 medals, 46 of which were gold– more than any other country. But how much of that is due to the fact that the United States is a huge freaking country, with over three hundred million people? How does that skew the bias?

Basically, what are the per capita gold medal rates?

I wanted to know, and nobody was telling me. So, I made it my quest to find out.

 

Here is the final medal count for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games:

Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
United States 46 29 29 104
China 38 27 23 88
Great Britain 29 17 19 65
Russia 24 26 32 82
South Korea 13 6 7 28
Germany 11 19 14 44
France 11 11 12 34
Italy 8 9 11 28
Hungary 8 4 5 17
Australia 7 16 12 35
Japan 7 14 17 38
Kazakhstan 7 1 5 13
Netherlands 6 6 8 20
Ukraine 6 5 9 20
New Zealand 6 2 5 13
Cuba 5 3 6 14
Iran 4 5 3 12
Jamaica 4 4 4 12
Czech Republic 4 3 3 10
North Korea 4 0 2 6
Spain 3 10 4 17
Brazil 3 5 9 17
South Africa 3 2 1 6
Ethiopia 3 1 3 7
Croatia 3 1 2 6
Belarus 2 5 5 12
Romania 2 5 2 9
Kenya 2 4 5 11
Denmark 2 4 3 9
Azerbaijan 1 2 6 10
Poland 2 2 6 10
Turkey 2 2 1 5
Switzerland 2 2 0 4
Lithuania 2 1 2 5
Norway 2 1 1 4
Canada 1 5 12 18
Sweden 1 4 3 8
Colombia 1 3 4 8
Georgia 1 3 3 7
Mexico 1 3 3 7
Ireland 1 1 3 5
Argentina 1 1 2 4
Slovenia 1 1 2 4
Serbia 1 1 2 3
Tunisia 1 1 1 3
Dominican Republic 1 1 0 2
Trinidad and Tobago 1 0 3 4
Uzbekistan 1 0 3 4
Latvia 1 0 1 2
Algeria 1 0 0 1
Bahamas 1 0 0 1
Grenada 1 0 0 1
Uganda 1 0 0 1
Venezuela 1 0 0 1
India 0 2 4 6
Mongolia 0 2 3 5
Thailand 0 2 1 3
Egypt 0 2 0 2
Slovakia 0 1 3 4
Armenia 0 1 2 3
Belgium 0 1 2 3
Finland 0 1 2 3
Bulgaria 0 1 1 2
Estonia 0 1 1 2
Indonesia 0 1 1 2
Malaysia 0 1 1 2
Puerto Rico 0 1 1 2
Taiwan 0 1 1 2
Botswana 0 1 0 1
Cyprus 0 1 0 1
Gabon 0 1 0 1
Guatemala 0 1 0 1
Montenegro 0 1 0 1
Portugal 0 1 0 1
Greece 0 0 2 2
Moldova 0 0 2 2
Qatar 0 0 2 2
Singapore 0 0 2 2
Afghanistan 0 0 0 1
Bahrain 0 0 1 1
Hong Kong 0 0 1 1
Saudi Arabia 0 0 1 1
Kuwait 0 0 1 1
Morocco 0 0 1 1
Tajikistan 0 0 1 1

As you can see, the main winners are large countries with high populations. It doesn’t hurt to be a European or East Asian country, either– India, with its population of over a billion people, only has six total medals, and Indonesia, the fourth-largest country in the world, only gets two!

But I don’t care about total medal counts, or even the number of gold medals. China and the US dominate, of course, but China and the US have huge numbers of people, and therefore have a higher potential athlete pool. So how many gold medals per million does each country have?

 

Gold Medals Per Million

Grenada 10.000

Bahamas 3.333

Jamaica 2.000

New Zealand 1.500

Trinidad and Tobago 1.000

Hungary 0.889

Croatia 0.750

Lithuania 0.667

Latvia 0.500

Cuba 0.454

Great Britain 0.446

Kazakhstan 0.438

Czech Republic 0.400

Denmark 0.400

Norway 0.400

Netherlands 0.375

Australia 0.318

Switzerland 0.286

South Korea 0.260

Georgia 0.250

Ireland 0.250

Belarus 0.222

Russia 0.202

France 0.169

North Korea 0.167

United States 0.146

Serbia 0.143

Slovenia 0.143

Germany 0.135

Italy 0.133

Ukraine 0.133

Azerbaijan 0.111

Dominican Republic 0.111

Sweden 0.111

Romania 0.105

Tunisia 0.100

Spain 0.065

South Africa 0.060

Japan 0.055

Iran 0.053

Poland 0.053

Kenya 0.048

Venezuela 0.037

Ethiopia 0.036

Argentina 0.035

Uzbekistan 0.034

Uganda 0.031

Canada 0.029

China 0.028

Algeria 0.027

Turkey 0.027

Colombia 0.022

Brazil 0.016

Mexico 0.009

Afghanistan 0.000

Armenia 0.000

Bahrain 0.000

Belgium 0.000

Botswana 0.000

Bulgaria 0.000

Cyprus 0.000

Egypt 0.000

Estonia 0.000

Finland 0.000

Gabon 0.000

Greece 0.000

Guatemala 0.000

Hong Kong 0.000

India 0.000

Kuwait 0.000

Moldova 0.000

Mongolia 0.000

Morocco 0.000

Montenegro 0.000

Portugal 0.000

Puerto Rico 0.000

Qatar 0.000

Saudi Arabia 0.000

Singapore 0.000

Slovakia 0.000

Taiwan 0.000

Tajikistan 0.000

Thailand 0.000

Well! Look at this! If we go by per capita gold medals, the United States is barely good at all! In fact, we’re just a perfectly cromulent midlist country!

We’re far better than China, though. China got only about a sixth of our per capita gold medals. And look at the front runners! All five countries that got more than one gold medal per million people is an island country– four of which are in the Caribbean, the other (New Zealand) being in the Pacific. This makes sense– island nations tend to have lower populations because of the restricted size of the landmass. And based on how big track is in the Caribbean, it makes sense that the top three countries (as well as four of the top five) are Caribbean nations.

It seems that, for a country to do well overall at the per-capita gold medal race, it should be medium- to small-sized in population and either located in the Caribbean or Eastern Europe. For a country to do extremely poorly, it’s best to be in Latin America, the Middle East, or South Asia.

Now, onto the next thing:

 

Total Medals per Million

Grenada 10.000

Jamaica 6.000

Trinidad and Tobago 4.000

Bahamas 3.333

New Zealand 3.250

Mongolia 2.500

Hungary 1.889

Denmark 1.800

Georgia 1.750

Estonia 1.667

Lithuania 1.667

Montenegro 1.667

Australia 1.591

Croatia 1.500

Belarus 1.333

Qatar 1.333

Cuba 1.272

Ireland 1.250

Great Britain 1.048

Armenia 1.000

Latvia 1.000

Sweden 0.888

Bahrain 0.833

Kazakhstan 0.813

Netherlands 0.813

Norway 0.800

Slovakia 0.800

South Korea 0.760

Moldova 0.667

Azerbaijan 0.666

Finland 0.600

Russia 0.573

Slovenia 0.571

Switzerland 0.571

Germany 0.543

Canada 0.529

France 0.523

Romania 0.474

Italy 0.467

Ukraine 0.435

Serbia 0.429

Czech Republic 0.400

Singapore 0.400

Spain 0.370

Kuwait 0.333

United States 0.331

Belgium 0.300

Tunisia 0.300

Japan 0.299

Bulgaria 0.286

Poland 0.263

Kenya 0.262

North Korea 0.250

Dominican Republic 0.222

Greece 0.200

Colombia 0.174

Iran 0.160

Hong Kong 0.142

Tajikistan 0.142

Uzbekistan 0.138

South Africa 0.120

Argentina 0.100

Portugal 0.100

Ethiopia 0.083

Brazil 0.073

Malaysia 0.071

Turkey 0.068

China 0.065

Mexico 0.063

Thailand 0.046

Afghanistan 0.040

Saudi Arabia 0.037

Venezuela 0.037

Morocco 0.031

Uganda 0.031

Algeria 0.027

Egypt 0.024

India 0.009

Indonesia 0.008

I find it amusing that the top five countries are the same on both this and the previous chart.

But anyway: there’s been some shifting around– mostly because the countries that had no gold medals actually won some medals of other colors. This means that there’s been some big jumps: most specifically, I’m looking at Mongolia, which was a bottom-of-the-list country in per capita golds, and has made a huge jump up to sixth place, at two and a half medals per million people!

Of course, the real bottom-of-the-list countries here are those that have huge populations but excruciatingly low medal counts: India and Indonesia. And these countries are the real losers of the Olympics. Because, really: that’s what the Olympics are about, aren’t they? Pitting nation against nation in a series of games of strength and skill, trying to find who is the best country– and the worst country. It’s about winners and losers. And the winners get sponsorships, while the losers– well, who cares about them?

Or so I was led to believe by NBC.

~ Ian

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