Data | Does the economy determine a country’s performance at the Olympics?



At the Tokyo Olympics, the top 10 countries in the medal count won 54% of all medals and eight of them are high income countries

The size of the economy is strongly linked to a country’s performance at the Olympics. In general, the larger the size of a country’s economy, the more medals there are, with a few exceptions such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Ukraine. At the Tokyo Olympics, the top 10 countries in the medal count won 54% of all medals. Eight of them are high income countries. On the other hand, factors such as population size and the Human Development Index have little bearing on a nation’s performance at the Olympics.

The top three countries in terms of GDP size in 2020 – the United States, China and Japan – were the top three countries in Tokyo’s medal count in that order.

Between 1992 and 2021, 65% each of high- and upper-middle-income countries, 27% of lower-middle-income countries and 37% of low-income countries won at least one Olympic medal.

With 21 medals between 1992 and 2021, India ranks seventh among the 15 lower middle-income countries and 55th among the 93 countries that have won at least one medal at the Olympics.

Medals and population

The graph shows the total number of medals won by a country at the Tokyo Olympics compared to the number of medals won per crore of population. The trend line suggests that there is no correlation between the size of the population and the medals won by a country. For example, the United States, which is among the most populous nations, has won the most medals in Tokyo, but ranks 60th when you consider the medals won per crore of people. In contrast, a sparsely populated region like San Marino came out on top despite winning only three medals.

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Economical size

While there is little impact of population size on the medal count, the size of the economy appears to have a positive correlation with the number of podiums. That is, the bigger the economy, the more medals there are. The graph represents the total number of medals won by a country in Tokyo relative to its GDP in 2020. Here, the trend line suggests a strong positive correlation between the two variables.

Income group

The graph shows the number of medals won by countries – ranked by income level – at the Olympic Games between 1992 and 2021. High-income countries like the United States, Australia and Great Britain won more medals than countries with other income levels. Among the upper middle-income countries, China and Russia stand out. Notably, Ukraine and Kenya, two lower-middle-income countries, and Ethiopia, a low-income country, exceeded their weight by winning significantly more medals than others in their category. returned. However, even these three nations are pale by the medal counts of high-income and upper-middle-income countries.

Medals and HDI

Another indicator to determine Olympic performance may be a country’s improvement in the Human Development Index (HDI). The graph represents the difference between the average medals won by a country between 1992-2004 and 2008-2021 compared to the% change in the HDI during this period. Here, the trendline again suggests that there is little correlation between these two indicators.

Source: CIO, Our World in Data, World Bank, UN

Read also: From gold in athletics to debut in fencing: India’s many firsts at the Tokyo Olympics

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