Just which is the most successful Olympic nation? Can that only be measured in the number of medals won, or should the pool of available potential athletes, the population size, be factored in? Or the nation’s wealth?
It seems obvious that the bigger the nation, the more possible champions there are, but what if people have no access to sports facilities, or the country is simply too poor to pour resources into sport? Faced with such adversity, shouldn’t medals won by poor, small countries get an extra weighting and count for more?
Some nations don’t even exist, for example the special refugee team that competed at this year’s games under the wing of the IOC. Perhaps they could be considered the best? Or take Ukraine. Last time round they won 22 medals, this time only 11, but the country is at war and on its uppers, so maybe those 11 medals are even more precious than normal.
Historically if population is used as the benchmark then the two most successful nations are Finland and Hungary. But financial specialists Bloomberg have tracked all the medals won and come to some surprising conclusions based on a medals divided by GDP formula. When that is done then the mighty USA looks positively anaemic, and based on this formula the greatest Olympian nation is the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada.
Grenada’s 100,000 people managed to find a silver medallist, but with a GDP of only 1.3 billion, that would give it a medal per 100 billion ratio of over 71 podium finishes. America can only manage 0.63 medals per 100 billion in GDP based on the same criteria.
The table makes for some interesting reading.