The Medal Count, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 14 2012 @ 11:38am

by Chris Bodenner

A reader writes:

Expanding on the reader's point comparing US and EU medal counts – because of the way that qualifying for events is limited by country, the EU was able to send over 3800 athletes to the Olympics. This means the EU averaged about 0.07 medals per athlete. The USA was allowed to send 543 athletes, which means they averaged 0.19 medals per athlete, or almost three times as many as the EU. There is no way to say that US would have beaten out the EU if they had been able to send seven times as many atheletes as they actually did, but given that there is an element of chance to all sporting events, just the presence of more athletes from one country will increase the overall medal count for that country.  (As an aside, the host country sent more athletes than the US – 558 from Great Britain).

Another writes:

I cannot believe you haven’t considered medal count in relation to the population of the competing countries. (Being from Denmark, I take great pride in that type of comparison.) You can see from this link that the picture changes radically.

The US is 28th by that standard. Another reader:

It should be noted that the only really fair measure (fair being defined by the parameters on which nations actually compete) would be some kind of weighted medals per unit of GDP per capita. Fortunately, it turns out someone's done that medal tally. You can argue over the weighting scheme (how about market prices of each metal? You'd need to find a right balance for bronze…), but nothing else would really capture the right balance of objectivity and insight.

The US is 7th by that standard. Another:

If the University of Florida were a country, its athletes would have ranked 11th in the world medal count.

Update from a reader:

To the reader who cited the success of UF-affiliated athletes, I have to offer a counter from the West (Best) Coast. USC-affiliated athletes brought in 25 medals, while up in the north, Cal brought in 17 medals and Stanford another 16. California as a state brought in around half of the medals the US earned.