Success in the Olympic Games is usually focused on medals, especially gold ones, and countries are usually ranked in terms of the number of medals won, and sometimes as medals per million of population or gross domestic product.
Examining individual countries this way yields some clues as to what is associated with success, but other striking insights emerge when the countries that won medals are divided into groups.
I’ve divided the 88 countries that won medals in the 2016 Rio Games into four large groups ranked by population (one group contains the 22 most populous nations, the next group 22 which are the next largest bloc, and so on) and also into four large groups ranked by total wealth.
Looking at the results this way, as if there were four and not 88 medal-winning participants, reveals that the least populous bloc won far more medals per 100 million population, by a factor of about 12, both gold and total, than the most populous bloc.
- ^ For now, the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead. But at what cost? (theconversation.com)
- ^ Imad Moosa and Lee Smith (onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
- ^ How much are we prepared to pay for international sporting success? (theconversation.com)
- ^ Australia (www.news.com.au)
- ^ Korea, Japan, France and Canada (www.idan.dk)
- ^ A$20 million (www.news.com.au)
- ^ Better than gold: the real value of the Olympic Games (theconversation.com)
- ^ failed (apo.org.au)
Authors: Malcolm Whyte, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Science, Australian National University