Medals per capita

So I made a joke to a friend about how, after Slovenia got their first medal, they were doing really well on a medals per capita basis.  And then, being me, I took this joke too far and actually started tracking the performance of this metric, and posting updates on FB.  Trust me, it was hilarious, you really missed out.  For posterity, here are the final top 10 (which incidentally are also the countries that had at least 2 medals per million population; population data from the CIA World Factbook).

CountryGSBPopulation (thousands)Medals per 1 M people
San Marino0123487.04
New Zealand7674,9914.01

Because I’m friends with a lot of people with PhDs in the sciences, this led to some methodological nit-picking.  One possible alternative measure is medals / GDP, where there is a much higher correlation coefficient (0.79 versus 0.42); here are the top ten in that measure.

CountryGSBGDP (B $ PPP)Medals/GDP
San Marino0122.008149

Obviously someone at the Washington Post was following me avidly, because Chuck Culpepper wrote a whole article about the last-place finisher among nations that won a medal: With 1.3 billion people and 35 medals ever, India remains an Olympic mystery. But I feel like the WaPo article really missed a crucial angle, namely, that all the large South Asian nations are chronic under-performers at the Olympics: Pakistan has only ever won 10 Olympic medals, and the most recent was in 1992; Sri Lanka has only ever won 2, and Bangladesh and Nepal have never won any.  (India was not quite last among medal-winning nations on a medals / GDP basis this year: they just squeaked past Saudi Arabia.)

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3 Responses to Medals per capita

  1. JBL says:

    This BBC article (Olympic medals: An alternative table – with US 15th, By Robin Levinson-King, August 10 2021) highlights one major difference between mathematicians and economists: unlike David Forrest, I am not entrepreneurial enough to try to convince a reporter at the BBC to publish an article about what happens when you divide medal counts by population!

  2. jd2718 says:

    Now, math PhDs ÷ medal winners, by country….

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