Monday, August 25, 2008

Olympic Medals per Capita

As you scan the Olympic medal tally, one thing stands out: larger countries tend to win more medals. An obvious exception, especially in 2008, is Australia, who won the sixth largest number of medals with a population of 21 million, 39th largest of Olympic countries. The obvious next question, which has been taken up by a variety of commentators, including Chuck Culpepper of the Los Angeles Times, is: who leads the world in medals per capita? I became frustrated with the lack of up-to-date statistics, so I built, which is updated daily during the Olympics, to answer this question. In addition, it calculates the leaders in gold medals per capita, as well as a weighted medal count where gold is worth three points, silver two and bronze one. Finally, it's a little unfair to ignore the relative wealth of countries, so the site counts medals relative to GDP. My bias? I'm originally from New Zealand, which has consistently been in the top half-dozen or so countries for total medals and gold medals per capita, trading positions back and forth with geographic neighbor Australia.