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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.

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Bo Cassell is an Associate Professor of Sociology at MidAmerica Nazarene University. In his 20+ years of experience working with youth and young adults, he has directed mission programs, developed youth conferences, and served as a youth pastor. He is the author of three books, including Water, Fire, Wind: The Elements of Following Christ, and Global Christianity: The Life We’re Called To Live-- both of which were commissioned as the preparation reading for two youth conferences attended by over 17,000 teenagers. He has also written curriculum for WordAction Publishers, and published several articles in Group Magazine, Journal for Student Ministries, Youthworker Journal, and Credo Magazine. A student of missions and culture, he has traveled to over a dozen countries, and set foot on every continent except Antarctica. He is a sought after speaker for leadership and youth ministry workshops, college campus chapels, and youth camps and retreats. Bo is a graduate of Pepperdine University, Fuller Theological Seminary, and the University of Missouri, Kansas City. He holds two Masters degrees, and is working toward a PhD. He lives outside of Kansas City.


  • Harvest Sermons Monday, 05 November 2012

    Olympic games is a great time for the world to support their respective countries. It's always good to see things in different perspective.

    Harvest Sermons

  • Dianne Thursday, 10 January 2013

    This is a smart observation that is not always exposed to the majority, but I am glad to know these information and do some more research.

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Guest Monday, 28 July 2014

About This Blog

OhBehave is the outreach blog of the MNU Behavioral Sciences Department. In matters related to Psychology, Sociology, and Criminal Justice you will find information and updates geared to keep students and professionals abreast of the latest research, professional developments, and important trends in each field. As we seek a life of purpose, the material presented in this blog is meant to enhance and deepen our understanding of people and our world so that we may intentionally reflect the grace and peace of our creator.