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The Other Olympics Medals Chart

SYDNEY, 2000
Compiled by Guy Dauncey, Victoria, BC, Canada.

Ranked by Population

In the Sydney Olympics, which country won the most medals per person? This is surely the true measure of a country’s athletic prowess. When we calculate "Medals per Population", a whole different ranking appears from the traditional medals chart. Here are our three winners:

gold - Bahamas bahamas

silver - Barbados

bronze - Iceland

Australia, as the host nation, came in a very respectable 4th, followed by Jamaica and Cuba, then Norway, Estonia, and Trinidad and Tobago. You’ve got to give it for the small Caribbean islands, with five of the top seven medal-winning positions.

Ranked by GDP

When you rank the nations by GDP, as a measure of their ability to provide the time and money to support and train their athletes, another ranking appears. The winning nations are:

gold - Ethiopia ethiopia

silver - Cuba cuba

bronze - Jamaica jamaica

Followed by Georgia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Bahamas and Barbados. Once again, the small Caribbean islands are performing right up there at the top. It sure makes you think! In 1996, at Atlanta, the top three positions went to Tonga, Cuba and Jamaica, followed by Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Armenia and Hungary. There is a longer exploration of the Sydney results below.

THE SYDNEY OLYMPICS: MEDALS PER POPULATION

THE SYDNEY OLYMPICS: MEDALS PER GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT

THE SYDNEY OLYMPICS: IN PRAISE OF THE SEA

THE SYDNEY OLYMPICS CHART A: MEDALS PER POPULATION

 

COUNTRY

Medals

Population

(million)

Population per medal

(million)

Rank

Bahamas

2

0.29

0.14

1

Barbados

1

0.274

0.27

2

Iceland

1

0.276

0.27

3

Australia

58

19.17

0.33

4

Jamaica

7

2.65

0.37

5

Cuba

29

11.14

0.38

6

Norway

10

4.48

0.45

7

Estonia

3

1.43

0.47

8

Trinidad & Tobago

2

1.17

0.58

9

Hungary

17

10.14

0.59

10

Bulgaria

13

7.80

0.60

11

Belarus

17

10.37

0.61

12

Netherlands

25

15.89

0.63

13

Lithuania

5

3.62

0.72

14

Sweden

12

8.88

0.74

15

Qatar

1

0.74

0.74

16

Latvia

3

2.40

0.80

17

Switzerland

9

7.26

0.80

18

Greece

13

10.6

0.81

19

Georgia

6

5.02

0.83

20

Romania

26

22.41

0.86

21

Denmark

6

5.34

0.89

22

New Zealand

4

3.82

0.95

23

Slovenia

2

1.93

0.96

24

Slovakia

5

5.40

1.08

25

Czech Rep

8

10.27

1.28

26

Finland

4

5.17

1.29

27

Germany

57

82.8

1.45

28

France

38

59.33

1.56

29

Russia

88

146.00

1.66

30

Italy

34

57.63

1.69

31

Korea, South

28

47.47

1.69

32

Costa Rica

2

3.71

1.85

33

Kuwait

1

1.97

1.97

34

Macedonia

1

2.04

2.04

35

Belgium

5

10.24

2.05

36

Great Britain

28

59.51

2.12

37

Croatia

2

4.29

2.14

38

Ukraine

23

49.15

2.14

39

Moldova

2

4.43

2.21

40

Canada

14

31.29

2.23

41

Kazakhstan

7

16.73

2.39

42

Azerbaijan

3

7.75

2.58

43

Austria

3

8.13

2.71

44

Poland

14

38.65

2.76

45

United States

97

275.56

2.84

46

Uruguay

1

3.33

3.33

47

Armenia

1

3.34

3.34

48

Yugoslavia

3

10.66

3.55

49

Spain

11

40.00

3.63

50

Ireland

1

3.80

3.80

51

Kenya

7

30.34

4.33

52

Taipei

5

22.19

4.44

53

Kyrgyzstan

1

4.68

4.68

54

Portugal

2

10.05

5.02

55

Korea, North

4

21.69

5.42

56

Israel

1

5.84

5.84

57

Morocco

5

30.12

6.02

58

Uzbekistan

4

24.75

6.19

59

Algeria

5

31.19

6.24

60

Japan

18

126.55

7.03

61

Ethiopia

8

64.12

8.01

62

South Africa

5

43.42

8.68

63

Argentina

4

36.96

9.24

64

Saudi Arabia

2

22.00

11.00

65

Brazil

12

172.86

14.40

66

Chile

1

15.15

15.15

67

Cameroon

1

15.42

15.42

68

Iran

4

65.62

16.40

69

Turkey

4

66.67

16.66

70

Mexico

6

100.35

16.72

71

Mozambique

1

19.10

19.10

72

Sri Lanka

1

19.24

19.24

73

Thailand

3

61.23

20.41

74

China

59

1261.8

21.37

75

Indonesia

6

224.78

37.46

76

Colombia

1

39.70

39.70

77

Nigeria

3

123.34

41.10

78

Vietnam

1

78.77

78.77

79

India

1

1014

1014

80

Source of data: www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook

Back to Top

THE SYDNEY OLYMPICS CHART B: MEDALS PER GDP

This chart shows each country's medal achievements in relation to its national GDP, as a measure of the wealth that enables athletes to benefit from scholarships and sponsorships.

Country

Medals

GDP

($ billion)

GDP per medal

($ billion)

RANK

(1996)

Ethiopia

8

$33.3

0.41

1 (21)

Cuba

29

$18.6

0.64

2 (2)

Jamaica

7

$8.8

1.25

3 (3)

Georgia

6

$11.7

1.95

4 (9)

Estonia

3

$7.9

2.63

5 (-)

Bulgaria

13

$34.9

2.68

6 (4)

Bahamas

2

$5.58

2.79

7 (16)

Barbados

1

$2.9

2.9

8 (-)

Belarus

17

$55.2

3.24

9 (11)

Latvia

3

$9.8

3.26

10 (34)

Romania

26

$87.4

3.36

11 (10)

Lithuania

5

$17.3

3.46

12 (36)

Azerbaijan

3

$14.0

4.66

13 (38)

Hungary

17

$79.4

4.67

14 (7)

Trinidad & Tobago

2

$9.41

4.70

15 (23)

Ukraine

23

$109.5

4.76

16 (26)

Moldova

2

$9.7

4.85

17 (20)

Korea, North

4

$22.6

5.65

18 (15)

Iceland

1

$6.42

6.42

19 (-)

Kenya

7

$45.1

6.44

20 (14)

Yugoslavia

3

$20.6

6.86

21 (5)

Russia

88

$620.3

7.04

22 (32)

Australia

58

$416.2

7.17

23 (27)

Macedonia

1

$7.6

7.60

24 (-)

Kazakhstan

7

$54.5

7.78

25 (18)

Slovakia

5

$45.9

9.18

26 (30)

Armenia

1

$9.9

9.90

27 (6)

Kyrgyzstan

1

$10.3

10.3

28 (-)

Slovenia

2

$21.4

10.7

29 (25)

Norway

10

$111.3

11.13

30 (37)

Greece

13

$149.2

11.47

31 (33)

Croatia

2

$23.9

11.95

32 (13)

Qatar

1

$12.3

12.30

33 (-)

Costa Rica

2

$26

13.00

34 (41)

Netherlands

25

$365.1

14.60

35 (39)

Uzbekistan

4

$59.3

14.82

36 (-)

Czech Rep

8

$120.8

15.10

37 (22)

Sweden

12

$184

15.33

38 (44)

New Zealand

4

$63.8

15.95

39 (28)

Poland

14

$276.5

19.75

40 (31)

Mozambique

1

$18.7

18.70

41 (29)

Denmark

6

$127.7

21.28

42 (42)

Morocco

5

$108

21.60

43 (60)

Switzerland

9

$197

21.88

44 (48)

Korea, South

28

$625.7

22.34

45 (43)

Finland

4

$108.6

27.15

46 (46)

Uruguay

1

$28

28.00

47 (-)

Algeria

5

$147.6

29.52

48 (56)

Cameroon

1

$31.5

31.50

49 (-)

Germany

57

$1864

32.70

50 (47)

Italy

34

$1212

35.64

51 (51)

France

38

$1373

36.13

52 (53)

Nigeria

3

$110.5

36.83

53 (45)

Kuwait

1

$44.8

44.80

54 (-)

Great Britain

28

$1290

46.07

55 (66)

Belgium

5

$243.4

48.68

56 (54)

Sri Lanka

1

$50.5

50.50

57 (-)

Canada

14

$722.3

51.59

58 (52)

South Africa

5

$296.1

59.22

59 (58)

Spain

11

$677.5

61.59

60 (55)

Austria

3

$190.6

63.53

61 (62)

Taipei

5

$357

71.40

62 (77)

Ireland

1

$73.7

73.70

63 (35)

Portugal

2

$151.4

75.70

64 (64)

Brazil

12

$1057

80.08

65 (19)

China

59

$4800

81.35

66 (61)

Iran

4

$347.6

86.90

67 (71)

Argentina

4

$367

91.75

68 (70)

Saudi Arabia

2

$191

95.50

69 (-)

United States

97

$9255

98.16

70 (65)

Indonesia

6

$610

101.6

71 (73)

Turkey

4

$409.4

102.3

72 (63)

Israel

1

$105.4

105.4

73 (67)

Thailand

3

$388.7

129.5

74 (75)

Vietnam

1

$143.1

143.1

75 (-)

Mexico

6

$865.5

144.2

76 (78)

Japan

18

$2950

163.8

77 (76)

Chile

1

$185.1

185.1

78 (-)

Colombia

1

$245.1

245.1

79 (-)

India

1

$1805

1805

80 (79)

Note: In 1996, Tonga was No. 1; Namibia was No. 8, and Burundi was No. 12.

Source of data: www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook

Back to Top

THE 2000 SYDNEY OLYMPICS IN PRAISE OF THE SEA

By Guy Dauncey

There are seven island nations which should be exceptionally proud of their achievements in the recent Sydney Olympics in Australia. When the medals are tallied for ‘medals per million people’, instead of the jingoistic list showing which country got most, the results provide a very different insight into which countries are the most effective at nurturing and encouraging their athletes. If there is a moral to be drawn from the results, it may be "encourage your athletes to train next to the sea", rather than throw more dollars at them.

In first place comes the Bahamas, with two medals, one for every 140,000 people. In shared second place come the Barbados and Iceland, with a medal for every 270,000 people. That rather large island, Australia (where almost everyone lives close to the sea) is fourth (1 per 330,000), and Jamaica (1 per 370,000) and Cuba (1 per 380,000) come in 5th and 6th. Another small island nation, Trinidad and Tobago, is not far behind in 9th (1 per 580,000).

The traditional big-hitters turn out to be fairly middle-of-the-road when the medals are counted in this manner. Germany (28th) wins 1 medal for every 1.45 million people; France (29th) wins 1 for every 1.56 million; Russia (30th) wins one for every 1.66 million. The USA, for all its winners, wins one medal for every 2.65 million people, 19 times fewer than the Bahamas, 8 times fewer than Australia and 7 times fewer than Cuba. When all 80 nations which won medals are counted on a ‘medals per million people’ basis, the USA comes 46th, just ahead of Uruguay and Armenia. If that feels hurtful – well, blame the maths, not me.

Looking too closely for meaning in the statistics for such unique individual achievements as the Olympic medal-winners is probably not to be recommended – but there are some fascinating geographical groupings which yearn for an explanation, even if none can be forthcoming. Look how closely neighboring Estonia (8th), Latvia (14th) and Lithuania (17th) are ranked, all on the Baltic Sea. Slovakia and the Czech Republic, until recently one country, come in 25th and 26th, as if they had never been separated. Likewise the neighboring Ukraine (39th) and Moldova (40th). Neighboring German, France and Italy cluster together at 28th, 29th and 31st, with the UK not far behind at 37th. The Scandinavian states all come in the top 27 - Norway (7th), Sweden (15th), Denmark (22nd) and Finland (27th). This predominance of proximity to the sea is so noticeable that if you were to color the most successful nations on a map, they would cluster around the Caribbean, the Baltic and the Black Sea (Bulgaria 11th, Georgia 20th, Romania 21st). The Mediterranean is a notable exception to this theory – maybe it’s too polluted to have the necessary effect.

What does it all mean? Probably, whatever you want it to mean – but it’s food for thought, and a pleasant alternative to the sound of the world’s richest and largest nations jumping up and down with pride. You tell’em, Bahamas!

Guy Dauncey, Summer 2000
Guy Dauncey is an author, futurist and part-time 10k runner.
He lives in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.