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The Real Winners of the Olympics

Updated on August 12, 2012

The Olympics

Is There a Winner?
Is There a Winner? | Source

United States

OK, the United States were the top medal winners, that is, they are the country that won the most medals.

Well done but when you have stopped congratulating yourselves, please don’t gloat.

These figures are not really representative of the best sporting nations.

To get an accurate figure of which country does the best at sport, you really have to take in several factors, not just the overall results.

You obviously must take into consideration the population of a country; this will give you ideas of what percentage of the people are sportsmen. Also you should take into consideration the facilities available for the sportsmen; this could be represented by how much money a country spends on sports.

Only when these figures have been factored in, can you really say which country is the best sporting nation.


To make my point, I will use the medal count and the population of the country in question and will use the top ten, so called, winners.

In order to do this, I will divide the countries population by the number of medals won.

United States, medals won 104, population 314,141,000 meaning one medal per 3,020 thousand people.

China, medals won 87, population 1,347,350,000 meaning one medal per 15,486 thousand people.

Russia, medals won 82, population 143,117,000 meaning one medal per 1,745 thousand people.

Great Britain, medals won 65, population 62,262,000 meaning one medal per 957 thousand people.

Germany, medals won 44, population 81,859,000 meaning one medal per 1,860 thousand people.

Japan, medals won 38, population 127,530,000 meaning one medal per 3,356 thousand people.

Australia, medals won 35, population 22,697,227 meaning one medal per 648 thousand people.

France, medals won 34, population 65,350,000 meaning one medal per 1,922 thousand people.

South Korea, medals won 28, population 50,004,441 meaning one medal per 1,785 thousand people.

Italy, medals won 28, population 60,820,787 meaning one medal per 2,172 thousand people.

Just from these figures you can see a difference. The new positions would be:

1st: Australia. 2nd: Great Britain. 3rd: Russia. 4th: South Korea. 5th: Germany. 6th: France. 7th: Italy. 8th: United States. 9th: Japan. 10th: China.

Put another way, if Great Britain, Germany, France and Italy entered as some kind of “Euro” team, they still would not reach a combined population (270,291,787) of that of the United States, yet would have won a total of 171 medals.


One of the Real Winners
One of the Real Winners | Source

The Rest of the World

These of course are figures only using the top ten countries but if you were to look at all, it would again be different, for instance:

Grenada 1 medal, giving one medal per 105 thousand people or Jamaica with 12 medals and a population of 2,705,000 giving it one medal per 225 thousand people. It could however be argued that these countries are not all round sportsmen, just excellent in one discipline.

No one though would venture to say that New Zealand were not all round sportsmen. They finished 16th in the medal count, with a total of 13. Given that their population is only 4,434,000 this means that they had one medal per 341 thousand people. They then, should be at the top of the list, putting the US at 9th.

Remembering that we have not even figured in expenditures of each nation, which the US would feature amongst the highest, it is easy to see that the US are not really in the top ten of all round sporting nations.

The Olympics gives us all a chance to be patriotic and cheer on our nation’s team but it is really more about individual performances. Perhaps some to note are Phelps becoming the greatest Olympian ever, the Saudi Arabian being the first female ever to represent her country and the Ugandan Marathon runner, overcoming the predominance of the Kenyan runners.

Be proud of your athlete’s accomplishments and be happy for them but do not try to bring more meaning to it than: a great sporting experience.


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    • rafken profile image

      rafken 5 years ago from The worlds my oyster

      CyclingFitness - I do mention that is also a factor. An example could be India, the second most populace nation, yet apart from cricket, do not really consider themselves sportsmen types. Other countries of course, just cannot afford to spend money supporting athletes.

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 5 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Per capita medal weighting is all well and good but would have been interesting if spend per medal was also factored in. All the main countries could be considered developed world therefore poverty and finances clearly has an effect.

      Some countries do not provide a focus on the Olympics despite size