Money and the Olympics: The Adjusted Medal Count per GDP

Posted in World Affairs by Kevin | Tags: , , , ,

The Winter Olympics is another event where athletes around the world can showcase their abilities and nations can flaunt their strong programs in every field. The Canadian team spent $100 million on a federal program to train athletes for the Winter Olympics they were hosting, hoping to win their first gold medal in a Winter Olympics on home soil.

In the Summer Olympics, the United States Olympics Committee committee spend half a billion. Similar heavy spending has allowed the US to rank number one in the overall medal count in the last 4 Olympics.

As a website geared around finance, we like to see things in terms of monetary efficiency. Of course, countries with more resources, population, and money will do better as more funding is available. It has been proven as a country modernizes, they will win more medals. In fact, Colorado College Professor Dan Johnson uses pure economics to predict the number of medals countries will win with a stunning rate of accuracy in the 90s (although neglecting numerous Post-Soviet countries which combined for almost 80 medals).

However, we collected a list of countries that performed the best and worst compared to their GDP? Our findings are amazing and we can attribute significant patterns to the rankings.

2008 Summer Olympics by GDP ranking:

1) Zimbabwe – 4 medals. 2008 GDP: $4.2 billion
GDP per Medal: $1.05 billion per medal

Before the economic destabilization of the country in the second half of the decade, the country had a GDP of about $32 billion.

2) Mongolia – 4 medals. 2008 GDP: $5 billion.
GDP per Medal: $1.25 billion per medal (Former Communist Country)

Armenia at the 2010 Olympics

Armenia at the 2010 Olympics

3) Jamaica- 11 medals. 2008 GDP: $15 billion.
GDP per Medal: $1.4 billion per medal (Former Communist Country)

Democratic Socialist / Communist from 1972 – 1983.
All in track and field.

4) Armenia- 6 medals. 2008 GDP: $11 billion.
GDP per Medal: $1.83 billion per medal (Former Communist Country)

5) Georgia- 6 medals. 2008 GDP: $13 billion.
GDP per Medal: $2.16 billion per medal (Former Communist Country)

During the Soviet Period, Armenia and Georgia combined for over 60 medals.

6 and 7) Kyrgyztan and Tajikistan. Each had two medals and a 2008 GDP of 4.5 Billion
GDP per Medals: $2.25 billion per medal (Former Communist countries)

Kyrgyztan still practices seasonal semi-nomadism and its largest city has 750,000 people.

8 ) Cuba– 24 medals. GDP: $55 billion
GDP per Medals: $2.30 billion per medal (Current Communist country)

Fidel’s country has always outperformed expectations in the Olympics.
9) Belarus – 19 medals. 2008 GDP: $60 billion

Cuba Gold Winner

Cuba Gold Winner

GDP per Medal: $3.05 billion per medal (Former Communisty country)

Belarus is the second largest country in terms of GDP in the top ten of the rankings.

10) North Korea– 6 medals. GDP: $26 billion
GDP per Medals: $4.33 billion per medal (Current Communist country)

Many people claim that North Korea’s only strong suit is its army…however the athletics program must also be pretty good, as a top ten ranking in the world only attests to success.

The Bottom:

– India is last, with one medal for $400 billion dollars.
– Venezuela had one medal total, and a GDP of $332 billion.
– Japan had a lot of medals (25) but a GDP of 5 trillion, for a GDP per medal of $200 billion per medal.
– The United States had the most medals (110) but a GDP of 14 trillion. GDP per medals for United States: $129 billion
– Israel, Austria, Mexico, South Africa and Egypt rounded out the bottom, ranging from 130 billion to 300 billion per medal.
Surely, something interesting is going on here. Why do nine of the top ten countries have communist backgrounds? Why are the bottom countries the most capitalist ?


3 Comments to “Money and the Olympics: The Adjusted Medal Count per GDP”

  • That is very interesting indeed! I think you could’ve plotted it for us or something to make it a bit clearer but regardless… You point out the communist vs capitalist countries insight. Which made me wonder if genetics/race had a clear trend but that top 10 seems fairly mix, maybe leaning a tad on African decent but thats about it. 

  • Could you please tell me where you get your information?Im doing a study about Japan & olympics

  • Definitely,

    http://www.coloradocollege.edu/dept/EC/Johnson.asp

    Also, some other information was obtained through simply finding olympic medals and comparing to GDP.

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