Olympic number crunching.
August 21, 2008 9:02 PM   Subscribe

How do you rate which country is "leading" in the Olympics?

I ask this, because the latest figures are as follows:

Gold Silver Bronze Total
1. China 46 15 22 83
2. United States 29 35 34 98
3. Great Britain 17 12 11 40


I assumed that the overall rating was based on 3 pts for a Gold, 2 Silver, 1 Bronze, which would mean that China is at 190 points and that the U.S. is at 191 points.

So, what gives?! Is there something offficial out there from the Olympic Comittee -- or a historical example -- of how the rankings are reached? If so, who's in the lead currently by how much?!
posted by markkraft to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (23 answers total)
The list is sorted by the total number of Golds.
posted by ceribus peribus at 9:08 PM on August 21, 2008

More precisely, it's sorted by total number of Golds, with ties broken by the number of Silvers, and further ties broken by the number of Bronzes.
posted by ceribus peribus at 9:12 PM on August 21, 2008

There is no official ranking. If your country has more golds, you count golds. If your country has more bronzes ... you count overall medals. The Olympics explicitly prefer to celebrate the individual athlete rather than any sort of national competition, especially by something as meaningless as medal count.
posted by dhartung at 9:12 PM on August 21, 2008

Best answer: The Medal Rankings: Which Country Leads the Olympics?

US set for overall victory in medal tally

US Olympic Committee media services director Bob Condron said: "We always consider the overall number of medals, because it shows the true strength of the team. The gold medals take care of themselves. "We rank the countries according to total number of medals, so if we say we won the medal tally, it means we won it overall."

Chinese Olympic Committee officials could not talk about the medal tally because it was a topic sensitive enough for the most senior Chinese party officials. But in China, and in most parts of the world, the medal tally is calculated by the number of gold medals. The minor medals are used to break a tie.

The International Olympic Committee ranks the medal standings both ways on its official information service. Historically, the IOC has rejected the notion of any medal tally, but in recent years it has become a talking point, and a means to lobby governments for sports funding.

posted by dhartung at 9:16 PM on August 21, 2008

The U.S. is winning overall... China is winning the most golds.

Soooooooooooo... if you're American, you say "We Are!"
Aaaaaaaaaaand... if you're Chinese, you say "We Are!" (but in Chinese, naturally)
posted by 2oh1 at 9:20 PM on August 21, 2008

Per capita - Australia always wins

France have a much more stylish team uniform though.
posted by Tixylix at 11:11 PM on August 21, 2008

Total number of gold medals.

The rest of the world tracks it thus.

Only the Americans, who want to place themselves ahead and above all others, opt for "total medal count."

No offence meant to our American cousins (so there's no point in flaming me), but it's true. And just a little bit sad really...
posted by Mephisto at 11:21 PM on August 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

Per capita - Australia always wins

Not this time.

Go Slovenia!!!
posted by Ljubljana at 12:59 AM on August 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

No surprise Jamaica leads by population. They have been awesome in track sprints.
posted by netbros at 1:15 AM on August 22, 2008

I love the table that Ljubljana links to above because it shows how various criteria can produce totally different results. For example if you rank by GDP the flat broke North Korea and Zimbabwe come out at the top.

There is probably also a missing ranking showing "return on investment" by nations and/or sponsors.
posted by rongorongo at 3:34 AM on August 22, 2008

Not this time.

It was nice that India got their first gold but you think they'd do slightly better with a billion people. 0.0435!
posted by ninebelow at 3:34 AM on August 22, 2008

The fact that they give out silvers and bronzes means the Olympics count second and third more heavily than your garden-variety sport like football, hockey or baseball, where in the end there's only one winner, and didly-squat for the team that comes in second (or third). I think that means you must count other medals as well, but weighted. If the Olympics didn't hand out silvers or bronzes, then you can go by golds alone. Otherwise, why have three people being awarded?

The rest of the world tracks it thus.

Of course they do. Otherwise the U.S. will consistently be at the top of the rankings each and every year. It's no wonder they'd like to sweep silvers and bronzes under the carpet. It's kinda pathetic.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:01 AM on August 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

For more comments, we just did this. I like this WSJ article (with a bad link in that other askme).
posted by inigo2 at 5:37 AM on August 22, 2008

It was nice that India got their first gold but you think they'd do slightly better with a billion people.

This was the subject of a rather fruitless discussion yesterday, but I'd love to hear some insight into why this is (beyond suspicions that athletic achievement just isn't valued). They've medaled in shooting, wrestling, and boxing...does it have to do with gerunds?

Having been lectured repeatedly about all poms being whingers...

I'm sorry, can you translate that to International?
posted by kittyprecious at 7:09 AM on August 22, 2008

I'm just very pleased British athletes are beating Australian athletes in both gold medals recieved and total medal count. Having been lectured repeatedly about all British people being serial complainers about things not going their way it's now funny to hear many Australian people complain loudly about being beaten now. As one Australian person said on the BBC, British athletes are only good at the 'sitting down' sports... I now laugh genially at this sore loser.

posted by ArkhanJG at 7:25 AM on August 22, 2008

Mod note: Bunch of chatter removed. Please stick to answering the question; this is not SportsFilter.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:09 AM on August 22, 2008

China is winning.

Forget about the medals and just assume that there are no medals in Olympics. Then China has won the most number of sports. SO they are winning.


If we consider the points scenario that one can ask why do we stop at the 3'rd place. Why don't we assign 1'st - 4pts ... 4'th - 1pt. Then the question come in to as why we are ignoring the person who won the 5'th place. As you can see this can go on a long way for about 30 - 40 places, so it's not practical.


Yahoo is just trying to boost the Americans moral by pretending that USA is ahead of china, when in reality China is winning.
posted by WizKid at 9:08 AM on August 22, 2008

It was nice that India got their first gold but you think they'd do slightly better with a billion people.

Lack of resources for upcoming athletes.
Abhinav Bindra who won the Gold medal for India is a millionaire. Well, at least his father with an annual income of 3000 million Indian Rupees (around 15 million US$). He built a shooting range at his house for his son to practice. India is lucky that Abhinav had his father to support him and provide the resources.
posted by WizKid at 9:13 AM on August 22, 2008

Discounting the whole count just the golds vs. count gold, silver and bronze business, i really think you have to examine how each country was expected to do in each sport and compare that with the actual results. It is far more subjective (and thus open to lots of fun arguments) but I think it gets at the crux of whether or not someone is winning, losing or doing as expected.
posted by mmascolino at 9:19 AM on August 22, 2008

China is winning. They have won more events than anyone.
posted by Zambrano at 9:48 AM on August 22, 2008

OK, to piggyback off this question, does anyone know where I can find a calculator like the one ljubljana links to, but for the olympics overall? In other words, metals per capita for both summer and winter olympics and for all of the games, not just this year's? It's my (unfounded but firm) belief that Norway has to be #1, considering how many metals it's won in the winter games and with less than 5 million people. Yes, I'm Norwegian, why do you ask?
posted by widdershins at 10:16 AM on August 22, 2008

Here are 5 alternative ranking systems on a page from the BBC
posted by knapah at 12:05 PM on August 22, 2008

The fact that a single country can win multiple medals in a single event makes me think total medal count is more valid than just gold medals (though both should certainly be taken into consideration nonetheless). If you take a handful of events, say five track races, country A could hypothetically win ten silvers and bronzes combined and no golds, while country B wins one gold and nothing else. I don't think anyone could confidently say that country B had a better performance overall, but if you ranked solely by gold medals, they'd be ahead.

Of course, China will be point to the gold count in the end, and if they want to, who am I to argue? I personally think if it were switched and the US were second in total medals but first in golds, there'd still be that reluctant admission that really, they were second.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 2:02 PM on August 23, 2008

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