Australia has hosted the Summer Olympic games twice. In 1956 in Melbourne and in 2000 in Sydney Australia finished 3rd and 4th in the respective medal counts. In the Summer Olympics since 2000, Australia has placed 4th, 4th, 6th and 10th respectively. Given Australia has a population of only around 20 million people (ranked 53rd in the world) this fact is frequently cited as noteworthy by the mainstream Australia media due to a strong sporting culture. Other observers have suggested this may also be a result of the generous funding the Australian Government has invested into elite sports development with the specific intention of improving performance at the Olympic games. Prior to Montreal, there was no government funding, however.
Many of Australia's gold medals have come in swimming, a sport which is popular in Australia, with swimmers from Dawn Fraser to Ian Thorpe ranking amongst the sport's all-time greats. Other sports where Australia has historically been strong include:
field hockey, with the women's team winning three gold medals between 1988 to 2000 and the men's team winning in 2004;
Australia takes international sporting competition, particularly the Olympics, very seriously, and provides much government funding and coaching support to elite athletes, partly through the Australian Institute of Sport. Australia has been more modestly successful in the track events at the games, particularly in modern times. Historically, Betty Cuthbert is Australia's most successful track athlete with four gold medals (three in 1956 and one in 1964).
These totals do not include eleven medals won by Australians competing for the combined Australasia team in 1908 and 1912: nine by individuals, one by an exclusively Australian team, and one by a combined team.