Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Explaining Olympic medals, a follow-up

Two weeks ago, I posted some stats on the nations that were winning the most Olympic medals in the first week of the games. I thought I'd follow up with some additional charts now that the games have concluded. These are for the top 21 medal-earning nations, rather than every country, so please forgive the incomplete dataset.

I should also mention a little regression analysis I did showing that overwhelmingly the best predictor of how many medals a country won was how many athletes they sent to the games. The more you play, the more you win. Not shocking, I know, but still a better predictor than wealth. However, GDP turns out to be the best predictor of how many athletes a nation will send. So national wealth is important, but somewhat indirectly.

Anyway, charts are below the jump. North Korea, while having a great first week, fell quite a bit in most rankings. The big story now is Jamaica, a small and relatively poor country that won a ton of medals.


Don said...

Just in case you have not seen them - there are people who have compiled full population and gdp analyses of the medals results at

The Guardian - http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/datablog/2012/jul/30/olympics-2012-alternative-medal-table

economist Bill Mitchell -

Craig Nevill Manning -

The medalspercapita.com site actually has data for all previous olympics, as well as cumulative totals - the Guardian is the only one to account for team size.

I have lost track of where - but someone also took a look at age distribution issues in relation to this data - and wrote up some of the implications for likely Olympic results in coming years.

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