Blogs by MidAmerica Nazarene University staff and faculty.
The Olympic Medal Count Leader Is… Grenada?
Every few years at the Olympics the media and others keep track of the number of medals won by any given country. All the reports this week were topped by the United States and China leading all nations in the number of medals won by athletes from these countries. It makes it appear that the US and China dominate the Olympic sporting world.
But is that really the case? If we look at the same medal count through sociological eyes, adjusting for important social factors that sociologists study, such as social class, we find that the US and China fall to the middle of the pack.
For example, let’s adjust for the number of medals won per capita-- this would compare country wins by adjusting for the pool of athletes available to the country. I remember this being a factor as a high school athlete. In my school of 1200 students, we were constantly having to compete with schools that had over 4000 students. We did pretty well considering that we had a much smaller pool of talent from which to draw. So, what happens if you observe the number of medals won taking into account the population of the country? The medal leader in the number of medals per capita is... Grenada.
And what about economics? It takes money to pay the best coaches, trainers, and to provide for athletes and their equipment and facilities for the four years leading up to the games. Could it be that countries who have more resources would fare better? So what would happen if we take into account an economic measurement, such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a country? Adjusted for GDP, the country with the most medals for the amount of GDP is... Grenada!
You can check these statistical adjustments out for yourself on this site, and even see how they came up with these rankings:
It is worth a look, and a debate about how winning is related to resources.