Have you been parked in front of the TV gorging on Olympic coverage? Here is a new, statistical way of enjoying this sporting spectacle.

With 195 countries on planet Earth (CIA World Factbook) and 205 of them competing in the Summer Olympics (BBC) what country is the most successful? There are over 10,000 athletes competing in over 300 events, so it depends on how you define success.

As of this writing China and the USA are tied for total medals at 17 each. But leading with 9, China has 2 more gold medals than the US. Yet over the 116-year history of the modern Olympics (data through 2008) the US dominates with 2296 medals, 929 of which are gold according to Top End Sports a website professing to be “the ultimate sport and science resource.” China has 385, 163 of which are gold, but continues to rise in the rankings.

Considering Olympic success in a different light is Find the Data which offers “unbiased, data-driven comparisons.” What if you measured the Olympic medals per capita? Then Mongolia with a population of 3.1 million yet only 1 medal would be a champion at 0.32 medals per million people! By comparison the US with its 17 medals has 313.2 million people giving it 0.05 medals per million people and China with 1.3 billion people has 0.01 medals per million people.


And how is it that there are 10 more competing countries than officially recognized countries? Some “dependencies” such as Guam, Samoa, Virgin Islands (US); Aruba (Netherlands); Cayman, Virgin Islands (UK); Cook Islands (New Zealand); and Hong Kong (China) compete under their own flag. Chinese Taipei, commonly known as Taiwan also competes under its own flag. And finally there is a team known as “Independent Olympic Athletes.”

So who do you think has the most Olympic success?

This article has 2 comments

  1. Heather

    I had no idea about the “Independent Olympic Athletes”…or Mongolia’s success. Very cool stuff. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Heather S.

    Looks like Hungary has stolen the lead from Mongolia! Awesome article, by the way! :-)

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