Olympic medal table

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The Olympic medal table is a method of sorting the medal placements of countries in the modern-day Olympics and Paralympics. Officially, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) does not recognize a ranking of participating countries at the Olympic Games.[1] Nevertheless, the IOC does publish medal tallies for information purposes, showing the total number of Olympic medals earned by athletes representing each country's respective National Olympic Committee.[2] The convention used by the IOC is to sort by the number of gold medals the athletes from a country have earned. In the event of a tie in the number of gold medals, the number of silver medals is taken into consideration, and then the number of bronze medals. If two countries have an equal number of gold, silver, and bronze medals, they are ordered in the table alphabetically by their IOC country code.


The Olympic Charter, Chapter 1, section 6 states that:

The Charter goes even further in Chapter 5, section 57, expressly prohibiting the IOC from producing an official ranking:

According to Australian IOC member Kevan Gosper, the IOC began to accommodate medals tables in 1992, releasing 'information' based on the 'gold first' standard.[1] The medal tables provided on its website carry this disclaimer:

Ranking systems[edit]

"I believe each country will highlight what suits it best. One country will say, 'Gold medals.' The other country will say, 'The total tally counts.' We take no position on that."

IOC President Jacques Rogge[5]

As the IOC does not consider its sorting of nations to be an official ranking system, various methods of ranking nations are used. Some sort rankings decided by the total number of medals the country has but most list by the gold medals counted. However, if two or more teams have the same number of gold medals, the silver medals are then judged from the most to the least and then the bronze medals.

Medal count ranking[edit]

The gold first ranking system described above is used by most of the world media, as well as the IOC. While the gold first ranking system has been used occasionally by some American media outlets, newspapers in the United States primarily publish medal tables ordered by the total number of medals won.[6][7][8][9][10][11]

This difference in rankings has its origins in the early days of the Olympics, when the IOC did not publish or recognise medal tables.[1] Before the 2002 Winter Olympics the difference in ranking system received scant notice, since in recent Olympic history the country that led in total medals also led in the gold count. However, in 2002 Winter Olympics Germany won the highest number of medals (36) but was left behind by Norway in gold medal count - Germany winning 12 and Norway winning 13.[12] A similar situation occurred at the 2008 Summer Olympics, with China and U.S. topping the gold and total medal tallies respectively,[13] and then again at the 2010 Winter Olympics when Canada and the U.S. finished 1st and 3rd respectively in the "gold first" ranking[14] or 3rd and 1st respectively in terms of total medals won.[15] Other exceptions are the 1896, 1912, and 1964 Summer Olympics when the United States finished first in gold medal count but second in the overall medal count. In an August 24, 2008 news conference, IOC President Jacques Rogge confirmed that the IOC does not have a view on any particular ranking system.[5]

Population-size, resources-per-person and multivariate prediction models and ratings[edit]

Sporting success predictions and ratings can be univariate, i.e. based on one independent variable, such as a country's population size and the number of medals is divided by the population of the country,[16][17] or multivariate, where resources-per-person in the form of GDP per capita and other variables are included.

Resources per person in the form of GDP per capita has been included in an article by The Guardian published during the 2012 Summer Olympics.[17][18] Already in 2002, the research done by Meghan Busse of Northwestern University suggested that both a large population and high per capita GDP are needed to generate high medal totals,[19] and predictive models have been built trying to predict success with multivariate analysis, taking also past results and host-nation advantage into account.[20][21][22]

Weighted ranking[edit]

Systematic rankings based upon a weighted point system with the most points awarded to a gold medal have also been devised. For example, in 1908, the British press invented a ranking system based on awarding gold medals 5 points, silver medals 3 points, and bronze medals 1 point (5:3:1).[13] In 2004, a linear system awarding 3 points to gold, 2 points to silver and 1 point to bronze (3:2:1) was used by the Australian Geography Teachers Association.[23] This weighting values a gold medal as much weight as a silver and a bronze medal combined. In response to the 2008 controversy over medal rank, a New York Times article on the subject described a points system in which 4 points was awarded for every gold medal, 2 points for every silver medal, and 1 point for every bronze medal (4:2:1).[24] These systems have been popular in certain places at certain times, but none of them have been adopted on a large scale.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Johnson, Ian (August 13, 2008). "Who's on First in Medals Race". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  2. ^ Araton, Harvey (August 18, 2008). "A Medal Count That Adds Up To Little". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  3. ^ "Olympic Charter" (PDF). International Olympic Committee. 2011-07-08. Retrieved 2012-08-04. 
  4. ^ "Olympic Games Athens 1896 - Medal Table". International Olympic Committee. Retrieved 2008-08-19. 
  5. ^ a b Shipley, Amy (August 25, 2008). "China's Show of Power". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-08-28. 
  6. ^ Eason, Kevin (2008-08-25). "America refuses to accept defeat in Olympic medal count". The Times (UK). Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  7. ^ Flyan, Kevin (2008-08-19). "Who’s top of the medals table?". Reuters. Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  8. ^ Wetzel, Dan (2008-08-22). "U.S. will be rocked by China’s heavy medals". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  9. ^ Pells, Eddie (March 5, 2008). "US, China set low Olympic expectations". USA Today. Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  10. ^ Paul, Alan (2008-08-16). "Different measures of success in race for gold". NBC Olympics. Retrieved 2010-01-10. 
  11. ^ Ruddick, Graham (2008-08-22). "US accused of medal table spin". The Telegraph (UK). Retrieved 2009-01-16. 
  12. ^ http://www.databaseolympics.com/games/gamesyear.htm?g=45
  13. ^ a b Hardaway, Robert (2008-08-22). "Weighing Olympic gold". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 27, 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-22. 
  14. ^ 2010 Official Medal Table
  15. ^ "Official Website for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics". Retrieved 2010-03-01. 
  16. ^ Donovan, Brooke (2008-08-21). "We are second in medals table-behind Slovenia". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2009-01-16. 
  17. ^ a b Rogers, Simon (2012-08-30). "Olympics 2012: the alternative medals table". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-08-06. 
  18. ^ "2008 Summer Olympics: GDP Adjusted Performance Ranking". FlagAndMap. Retrieved 2012-07-25. 
  19. ^ Who Wins the Olympic Games: Economic Resources and Medal Totals, Review of Economics and Statistics, December 2002.
  20. ^ "Medals table: The alternative rankings for London 2012". The BBC. 30 July 2012. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
  21. ^ "Dan Johnson: "The Man Who Predicts Medals"". Colorado College. 18 July 2012. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
  22. ^ "Medals table: The real winners and losers". The BBC. 14 August 2012. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
  23. ^ Bernard, Andrew (2004). "Medal points data for Athens 2004 Olympic Games" (PDF). Review of Economics and Statistics. Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  24. ^ Klein, Jeff (2008-08-17). "The Medal Rankings: Which Country Leads the Olympics?". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-01-10.