Which countries REALLY win the Olympics?

Which countries REALLY win the Olympics?


Every Olympics you see lists like this.
Tables, showing the number of medals each nation has won. This is nice and simple
but the problem is that it actually doesn’t tell you very much. A nation’s
size dramatically affects the number of medals it wins, so just adding them up is
unfair to countries who don’t have hundreds of millions or billions of
people. So which countries are really the best at the Olympics? The most common
solution to the country-size problem is to rank countries by medals as compared
to population, or medals per capita. Supposedly, this corrects for size and
gives every nation a fair shot. For instance, in the 2012 London Games the
United States finished first in total medals, but 49th in medals per capita.
Grenada earned just one medal, but because it only has about a hundred
thousand residents, it was first in medals per capita. This is definitely
fairer than a simple tally, but there’s still a problem. For the U.S. to pull
ahead of Grenada in this table, they would have to win over 2,800 medals, more
than three times the number awarded in the entire Olympics. For China it’s even
worse: they would have to win over 12,000. So while a simple medal tally is unfair
to small countries, a medals per capita ranking makes it literally impossible
for large countries to reach to the top of the standings. There must be a better
way than this. But after looking around, I couldn’t find a ranking system that gives
both large and small countries a fair shot. So I made one. It turns out
that the key is not to measure medals or population, but probability. As an example,
imagine a theoretical Olympic Games where there are six events. All the
winners are from three nations: the Red Nation, which has 5% of the world’s
population, wins 1 gold; the Blue Nation, which has 12%, wins two golds; and the
massive Green Nation, which has 30 percent of the world’s population, wins
three golds. Given this information, which nation did the best? Well, it depends. You
could rank them according to total golds, in which case Green would win, or golds
per capita, in which case Red would win. But let’s put these two rankings on a
graph. Here’s total medals, and here’s medals per capita, so up and to the right
is good. Here’s Red, here’s Green, here’s Blue. Suddenly, it looks like Blue
did the best. Now let’s try calculating the odds that each nation would perform
as well as they did. For example, Green, with 30 percent of the world’s
population, would theoretically have a 30 percent chance of winning each event. So
what are the odds that it would win no fewer than 3 out of 6 events? You could
do these calculations by hand, but there’s a mathematical formula called a
cumulative binomial distribution, which produces the same result either way, it
turns out that the answer is about 26%. Do the math for all three nations, and it
turns out that the nation least likely to win as much as it did was Blue. Blue,
the middle sibling, too small to have much of a chance at winning the most
golds and too large to have a great shot at winning in the medals per-capita
table, is finally recognized by the cumulative binomial distribution. And
more importantly, by this standard, all three nations had a shot at first place.
If either Red or Green had earned one more gold medal, they would have taken
the top spot. So what happens if we apply this concept to the real Olympics? Well,
it gets a little more complicated. Numbers get larger, probabilities get way
smaller, and you have three different medal colors to deal with. So this is the
formula I came up with: three cumulative binomial distributions, one for golds,
one for golds plus silvers, and one for all medals. Those three numbers are
transformed with a logarithm to make them manageable and then averaged to
create one number, which hopefully reflects each nation’s Olympic success.
The higher the number the better. I call it the… With this formula I calculated a
score for every nation in the last ten Olympics, and I found the results to be
mildly surprising. So without further ado, according to the Impressiveness-o-Meter,
the overall leaders of the last five Winter and Summer Games are… [Drum roll] Norway and Australia. I don’t know about
you, but that’s not what I was expecting. In the Winter Olympics, Norway wins
overall on the impressiveness-o-meter, and in for the last five individual
Games. Austria is second and is the only other nation to rank first in any Winter
Games since 1998. After that it’s Canada, Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.
On the summer side, Australia holds first place, having won the first three
Olympics of the 21st century, but Great Britain is hot on their heels, having won
the last two Summer Games. The U.S. rounds out the podium in third, followed by
Russia, though take their performance for what you will, given the doping
violations. Then comes Cuba, Hungary, France, Jamaica, and New Zealand. If any of
these results seem counterintuitive, here’s that graph from earlier. Remember,
this side is total medals; this side is medals per capita. Up and to the right is
good. Here’s the United States, here’s New Zealand, Russia, Great Britain, and here’s
Australia. On the winter side, things get a little confusing, but the one thing
that is clear is that Norway blows everyone else out of the water. And
finally, here are the top five finishers for each of the last ten Olympics,
according to the Impressiveness-o-meter. Note that only Germany and the
Netherlands appear in the top five in both a summer and winter games. New Zealand is
the smallest nation to appear in any top five, with less than 5 million residents, and
the United States is the largest to appear, with 323 million. The closest
margin was in Turin, where only four more gold medals would have put Norway ahead
of Austria. Norway, Austria, and Canada are in the top five in every Winter Games, while
there’s more movement in the Summer Games. Note, for instance, Great Britain’s
steep rise and Russia’s slow decline. Of course, there are still a bunch of
things the impressiveness-o-meter doesn’t factor in. Should we adjust for a
home-field advantage? Should team sports count more since there are more
athletes competing? Should popular sports count more? What about sports that give
out a ton of medals? Should nations get credit for athletes who train within
their borders, regardless of which nation they represent? Should countries be
handicapped according to wealth? Or snowfall? In the end, there’s never going
to be a perfect way to measure Olympic success, but at the very least I’d like
to think that the Impressiveness- o-Meter might be one of our least worst
options. Thanks for watching, and make sure to come back in a couple of weeks,
when I’ll post a follow-up video with all the 2018 results from Pyeongchang.

100 Replies to “Which countries REALLY win the Olympics?”

  1. Corrections: At 5:02, the dot labeled GB is actually Cuba. Great Britain is the unmarked dot on the line, just under Russia.
    Also, dear Sydney: sorri.

  2. You're answering a problem that doesn't really exist. Countries don't "win the Olympics". That's not the point of the event.

  3. I don't know how olympics work but what about dividing medals by the number of participants instead of population

  4. I don't understand their still only 1 contestant per country for an event, I know larger country's have bigger pools of people to find talent but entering every country has one contestant say for the 100 meters

  5. doesn't make logical sense lol… having more people doesn't really help you. i mean if the country has 50,000 people yeah they're at a disadvantage but once you pass like 2 million it's not gonna change

  6. Really late to the party here, but I don't think I saw you factor in athletes brought into the games. If a small country brings a decent sized team to the Olympics and wins the same amount of medals as a big country shouldn't that be reflected in your findings? This would be crucial because it would account for qualifiers. There are usually only a finite amount of slots for athletes to compete in or high standards to even be considered competitive.

  7. You posted this video in 2018, therefore the results in the thumbnail should be from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, where China came 1st, Great Britain came 2nd and Russia came 3rd.
    Yet you put the 2012 winners in the thumbnail, USA, China and Great Britain.
    I didn't actually watch the video (sorry) so please tell me if this is because you are basing it off the 2012 Olympics not the 2016 Olympics, but otherwise I can tell you just wanted to have your country in first place to, sort of, show off (unless you're Canadian, their's virtually no difference between your accents XD).

  8. I don’t feel that a medal tally is an unfair way to measure who wins. Because in order to earn a medal one must be very good at the sport. Jamaica is smaller than the U.S but earns tons of running medals. In short your country can be bigger than some others but unless you have good athletes you won’t win in the first place. If this population = more medals idea properly modeled reality then China and India would be the two best nations at the olympics every year. Countries only earn medals if their athletes are skilled. Which is why America wins the most medals disproportionately to the rate we should since our population is smaller than several other countries

  9. Why does it matter how many people live in the country? That makes literally no sense why cant you just look at how many athletes they had competing compared to medals won? You are making this wayyy over complicated

  10. love this!
    also, Australia isn't really surprising. even without the maths, australia's performance adjusted for population and economy has always been most impressive amongst the larger nations.
    ive always maintained that it is the greatest sporting nation in the world.

  11. A large amount of people that become Olympians move to a country to use up one of their entries, assuming all countries only get the same entries I’m not sure this video is relevant? What are we going to do next limit amount of money for training allowed? Amount of weeks or years athletes are allowed to train? Or what conditions they are allowed to train?

  12. Others have pointed out other factors that you might want to include in a 'fair' ranking. My criticism is not with that, but with your formula. It has no meaning. Don't get me wrong, I'm fine with your use of probabilities (I believe these would be referred to as 'likelihoods'), that is all understandable and decently well explained. My problem is the way you decide to average scores for G, G+S and G+S+B after taking the logarithm. What's the motivation? What is the interpretation of the end result? If it has no meaning, why use it as a scoring system?

  13. Medals per capita is completely useless. There are more players taking part in olympics from USA than from China and India even though the population of china and india are significantly large. You should count the number of players taking part and among them, how many did win the medals.

  14. But USA doesnt even undergo the blood checkups for doping… Cmon man, Russia rly? U only think that only they use doping… USA is know for doping. In every sport they use enchancers. Nba is the biggest doping pit there is…

  15. wouldnt have it just been easier to calculate the medals per capita of Teams/athletes of a country?

  16. You can't use probability – this isn't picking random balls out of a barrel, each with an equal chance of success. Different countries have different strengths in different events.
    And I say this as an Australian who should be happy that my country's flag has been waved here. We punch above our weight because we have a very strong swimming culture. If you remove the set of swimming events from your calculations you will see Australia's performance get "rationalised" back down to a much less impressive level.

  17. I'm surprised Greece wasn't in the top five for the Athens games. they have a small population and won a lot of medals and I feel their expected average would have been low.

  18. Australia didn't supprise me at all. They're usually in the top 10 in overall medals, with a measly population of >30 million.

  19. Also, individual sports like Swimming, Gymnastics, and Athletics totally skew the count as well. The US does much better in individual competitions than team competitions. We're good at basketball, but we aren't the best in many other team sports.

  20. i was just about to do these calculations, because I'm from the Netherlands and we're bomb af in the winter Olympic Games

  21. Or just accept that nobody "wins" the Olympics because it's a collection of individual events, each with their winners.
    That said, it would be nice to have a competition where each partecipating nation sends the same number of athletes to compete in a series of sports and then work out an overall winner. A bit like the old Jeux Sans Frontières but with formalized sports.

  22. india has over billion people and has won 28 medals in its olympic history,in comparison phelps has won 28 medals.

  23. i thought the winner are the individuals in their respective sport rather than nations
    by this i mean countries or individual who win in their sport not counting with other sports
    it is too hard to explain from my point of view

  24. The size of the population of a country is irrelevant in the Olympics. Each country can send as many athletes as it wants, usually thats a matter of funding and availability of competitive athletes.
    So the easiest and most objective way of counting succes would be, to count medals of a countries athletes team. As in: 2 medals among 10 athletes of country A is better than 20 medals among 200 athletes of country B.

  25. Putting Rio in isolation Britain comes second in the real system and first in your system does that not make them so superior

  26. Shouldn't you have just taken the amount of athletes that competed for that country instead of THE ENTIRE COUNTRY's population?

  27. Or maybe each team for each sport should have the same people like each country should have lets say 10 people and for gymnastics 6 people in each team or maybe I’m just really stupid😂

  28. musings: norway ans australia
    me:wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
    go straya!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  29. humm, So if I'm a youtuber with 10 subs and most of my video have 1/0 like/dislikes I'm a winner compare with pewdipie? I guess that make sense

  30. Yeah NZ is the smallest country to appear in any top 5 list impressive.More impressive if this was done on a per capita basis,At the last Olympics NZ beat all these countries on a per capita basis finishing 3rd.Only about 100 countries are in the winter Olympics so I don't really rate it.As for Great Britain,that's 4 countries in any other sport,why the Olympics?NZ never get home advantage either.Also they shouldn't be tallied together the winter and summer Olympics because only about half the world compete in the winter Olympics.If this was done on a per capita basis NZ would probably win hands down because they regularly finish in the top 5 per capita.If you go on all sports not just the Olympics NZ would probably win per capita.Currently NZ hold 8 world cups in team sports alone and that's just the ones I'm aware of.That would be equivalent to Australia having 40-48 world cups which puts things in perspective.In addition to that NZ are ranked 2 in league,2 in netball,top 5 in all forms of cricket,4 in hockey and have won both the league and netball world cups before and were in the cricket world cup final in 2015.They've even made it to the last 4 in basketball at the world champs before.They have the most dominant sports team in history from any country the All Blacks who have a winning ratio around 80% from 1905-2018.They dominate watersports at the world champs and have good combat fighters.In fact Joseph Parker fought for the heavyweight title this year but unfortunately lost on points.Lydia Ko dominated golf for a while but has gone off the boil the last couple of years.Phillip Tautaurangi won the PGA once.NZ are very successful in motorsports too especially motocross and Scott Dixon dominated the Indy 500 before moving to NASCAR's.The woman made it to the final of the Kabaddi world cup on their first attempt.The only sport NZ plays that they're weak in is soccer but NZ are probably the most anti-soccer nation of all and consider soccer a girls game.Having said that,NZ were the only country who never lost a game at the FIFA world cup in 2010 but unfortunately never scored enough goals to proceed.The highlight was the draw to Italy.These are only some examples of NZs prowess in sports and from a population of only 4+million.

  31. So proud to be an Aussie. Australia have always excelled in all sorts of sports. Even better than New Zealand who are only good in Rugby, Australia are among the elite in world sports with incredible results in Basketball, Field Hockey, Rugby League, Rugby Union, Swimming, Tennis, Netball, Cricket, Athletics and Water Polo just to name a few. Australia definitely is the best 100% AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE!!!!

  32. Hey. Please don't ignore this comment. But I have noticed that in many cases, it will show he probability of doing as 'bad' as it did instead of as 'good' as it did. When I applied the formula, in the 2016 summer olympics, India came first despite winning zero gold medals because of the issue mentioned above. Is this a mistake from my side? Can you clarify why it wouldn't calculate the odds of it doing as bad as it did despite its population? Thanks

  33. I think the rank would be better if you used the total number of athletes the country has, because some nations send disproportionately high number of athletes.

  34. I am very surprised not to see Croatia at the top of the list. Croatia, a country of just 4.2 million people is actually the worlds greatest sporting nation. Of this 4.2 million, 98% are actually Croats and 2% others. Croatia is the greatest sporting nation & peoples on the planet.

  35. The black AA male is a different beast and we don’t like to give credit when credit is do.
    BLACK athletes are the reason why America has the reputation and respect that it has.
    From boxing, basketball, running gymnastics,etc and essentially just the winning sports culture that’s associated with this great nation; BLACK MEN are the reason for that period.

  36. I always thought Australia was good because it's a Continent but when its population is 20 million they sure seem to know how to get lots of medals for that small a populations especially back in 2000 Olympics they hosted, maybe it's the climate?

  37. To increase your chances of winning in the Olympics you must first come to the United States of America where its legal to go online and purchase Selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs) and growth hormone peptides and Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) for animal use and then stop using it for over a year before the animal joins the olympics. The USA has an unfair advantage because that's illegal in Canada.

  38. Another thing that should be added on the impressive meter is how well a nation do in different kind of sports. If you are good at swimming for example there are tons of medals to be gained, while there is only one for javelin or discuss etc, would be interesting to see an overall success where you can only get 1 medal per type of sport.

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