Which countries really won at the Rio 2016 Olympics?


We posted a couple of weeks ago at the midway point of the Olympic Games 2016 with a slightly different view of who was winning the Olympics depending on what data points to you for comparison.

So now the games are over, how did each country do?

Medal haul:

Similar to the last post, in terms of the haul, nothing has change. The US and the UK had record breaking years while China, although still in third had a bad year compared to previous games. (table based on a points system – Gold = 3, Silver = 2, Bronze = 1).


Key points:
– Size of population and economy might are clear determiners for large medal hauls
– There is no country that has more than 25 medals that has less than 60m inhabitants
– Out of the top 15 countries by medal haul, the only non-OECD countries are China and Russia (judged on GDP per capita).
– The top 20 countries in terms of government expenditure represent 68% of all medals won.

Proportion of Each Team to Win Medals:

Two weeks ago North Korea, with a team of 35 managed to win seven medals, pulling ahead early on by a strong showing in weightlifting. That’s a whopping 20% of their athletes. They haven’t won anything since and as such they have been pushed down to fifth. The new kings are Azerbaijan, Ethiopia and the US. Azerbaijan and Ethiopia showing the importance of dominating a particular sport to push you up the standings. Azerbaijan with a good haul in wrestling and all of Ethiopia’s medals coming on the track.



And What About Gold Medals?

Kosovo, competing for their first time had the highest percentage of their team with gold medals, with one of their team of 8 winning a gold but as the games progressed the minnows Tajikistan with a team of just 7 managed to get a gold, giving them the highest percentage. Kosovo settle for second and Jordan, again one medal in thrid. Jamaica coming in fourth is impressive fielding 68 athletes and getting six golds.

Golden Teams - 2


Medals by Government Expenditure:

Unfortunately we don’t have statistics for expenditure on sports by country, so we’ve had to settle for gross government budget in relation to medals. So who’s getting the most bang for the tax payers’ buck?

Brightest investors - 2


At the top, no change since last time – the single gold for tiny Grenada ensuring their place. North Korea are again pushed out of the top three to fifth, while Niger and Burundi come second and third with one medal each. Jamaica again doing well. An impressive medal haul despite a relatively small GDP. Using this variable, not a single OECD country makes it into the top 25.

Medals Per Capita:


We all expect the US, China and Russia to do well with their big populations and history of sports, but when we factor size of population, we get much different results.

Medals per capita - 2

Due to their tiny populations, the islands of Grenada and Bahamas, with one medal each come out on top of the pack. Jamaica are third again, another great result, while New Zealand are pushed into fourth place with an impressive 22 medals. Looking at population, the US finishes one place below Russia in 44th representing one medal per 2.7 million inhabitants and China moves up two places to 10th from bottom (only counting countries that have won medals) with one medal per 19m people.

Conclusions…so far…

Other than those countries that just had one medal and a tiny population, it’s clear that many smaller or poorer nations do well when they dominate in an area. The African nations and Jamaica having impressive hauls on the track, the North Korean and Azerbaijanis in wrestling all mean they have performed way above what their relatively small resources would enable them to do.