Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Olympic medals rankings normalized by country population and development index

(See here for my final update to this as of the end of the Olympics)

We all see China and the US jockeying for position at the top of the Olympic medal counts. But which countries are really doing best?

The table below orders countries by population (right column marked PopM). Coloured cells are the top 20 (and tied) countries according to various ranking criteria.

Orange is the 'gold medal' ranking, with ties resolved by silver and bronze medals. This is the ranking used by most rankings tables. Yellow is total medals. Green (WTot, WMR) is total medals weighted such that Gold has a value of 4, silver a value of 2 and bronze a value of 1. This is the system I prefer when population is not considered.

Purple (G10M, GMPR) is gold medals per 10 million of population , but normalized by UN development index (DevInd column). A country with a lower development index has fewer resources, so should be expected to be capable of training fewer athletes. Light orange (M10M, MPR) is total medals, again weighted by population normalized by UN development index. Finally blue (WM10M, WMR) is weighted total medals (as per the green rankings) weighted by normalized population.

Grenada does best in most rankings by virtue of its one gold medal and small population. New Zealand is doing best in countries with moderate population. Other countries doing well are Jamaica (due to their sprinters) and Slovenia.

Great Britain is the large country (by population) doing best. North Korea and Australia also stand out.

The US and China a quite far down, at 37 and 58 in my blue (WMR) rankings, suggesting that although they are doing well overall, they are not doing as well when population and development index are both factored in.

The table notably shows very populous countries with few medals: India and Indonesia stand out near the top.

The data is as of midday Wednesday August 8th. I intend to update it at the end of the Olympics. The original spreadsheet can be found here.

I wish the media would report data like this for all to see.


  1. There is an interesting article in the Globe and Mail related to this

  2. I have posted an update for August 9th - see

  3. Nice job with this. I'm glad I searched for it before trying to compile the stats myself.

    The development index is a tough one, because many of these athletes train in America. The Grenadan for instance trained at the University of Alabama.

    I'd also like to see what it looks like if you include all gold medals won by a team (i.e. the 4X400 relay should count for four gold medals).