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Monday, August 22, 2016

Medals per million

Athletes from the U.S. won the most medals at the 2016 Summer Olympics, but before Americans think once again that they're better than everyone else, let's calculate medals per million population. It's just logical to expect that the more populous countries win more metals than the less populous countries, right? Here are the numbers.

  • Jamaica 3.67
  • New Zealand 3.60
  • Croatia 2.50
  • Denmark 2.50
  • Slovenia 2.00
  • Azerbaijan 1.80
  • Georgia 1.75
  • Hungary 1.50
  • Armenia 1.33
  • Lithuania 1.33
  • Australia 1.21
  • Serbia 1.14
  • Netherlands 1.12
  • Sweden 1.10
  • U.K. 1.03
  • Belarus 1.00
  • Cuba 1.00
  • Kazakhstan 0.94
  • Czech 0.91
  • Switzerland 0.88
  • Norway 0.80
  • Slovakia 0.80
  • France 0.65
  • Canada 0.59
  • Belgium 0.55
  • Greece 0.55
  • Germany 0.51
  • Italy 0.47
  • South Korea 0.41
  • Uzbekistan 0.41
  • Russia 0.38
  • U.S. 0.37
  • Japan 0.32
  • Spain 0.30
  • Kenya 0.30
  • North Korea 0.29
  • Poland 0.29
  • Ukraine 0.26
  • Romania 0.25
  • South Africa 0.18
  • Colombia 0.16
  • Malaysia 0.16
  • Iran 0.10
  • Turkey 0.10
  • Brazil 0.09
  • Argentina 0.09
  • Thailand 0.09
  • Ethiopia 0.08
  • China 0.05
  • Mexico 0.04
  • Indonesia 0.01
  • For example, in proportion their populations, the Australians won three times as many medals as the Americans.

    The populations in these calculations were rounded to the nearest million, so for the less populous nations, there might be some movement in the rankings if the calculations had been made to three significant digits. But the overall message of the numbers is clear.

    Jamaica, of course, is at the top because of Usain Bolt. An exceptional athlete can skew his or her nation's numbers.But the U.S. had Michael Phelps and Simone Biles, among others.

    Anyway, I think the U.S. Olympic Committee has something to think about — as does their counterpart in China. Host nation Brazil did poorly, perhaps distracted by logistics. Note that some countries like Sweden emphasize winter sports. Their numbers for the summer are particularly impressive.