Ranking Each Country's Success at the Olympics

Counting the number of medals won is how we usually compare the performance of each country at the Olympci Games, but it may not be the fairest system for doing this.

Below we use the 2008 medal table as an example to compare a different weighted ranking systems that use weighted scores for each medal awarded. We have also used the same weighted ranking systems to compare athlete performances.

Country Comparison Table for 2008

Based on the comparison below of the top countries using all the different ranking systems listed, in 2008 the USA would only lead the count when total medals are considered, otherwise China leads the tally. Generally each ranking system does not make significant differences in the order, it is only when there is a great discrepancy between the totals for each medal, particularly more or less golds than the others, that these ranking systems make a real difference.

olympic poster 2004Whether a 3:2:1, 4:2:1, 5:3:1, 5:3:2 or 6:2:1 weighting method is used, the results are practically the same. Russia is third and GB fourth no matter how the scores are counted. Japan are ranked best when using gold medal counts, they are a couple of places lower using the other methods. France is another country that jumps around on the list based on the system used.

My compromise weighting method (Topend Sports 6:2:1) has the best of both systems, it gives lots of credit for gold medals (6 points), but some credit for the minor medals - so if a country has a large number of the minor medals without the corresponding golds then they may rank higher than they otherwise would have. Of course I think my method is the best, but I can see that countries may be interested in using the method that places then highest, not necessarily the most fair or most representative.

Table: The Top Countries ranked by total gold medals, with their ranking order based on other methods.

  ranking
Country Gold Silver Bronze total
medals
sort by gold sort by total 3:2:1 4:2:1 5:3:1 5:3:2 6:2:1
China 51 21 28 100 1 2 1 1 1 1 1
USA 36 38 36 110 2 1 2 2 2 2 2
Russia 23 21 28 72 3 3 3 3 3 3 3
GB 19 13 15 47 4 4 4 4 4 4 4
Germany 16 10 15 41 5 6 6 6 6 6 5
Australia 14 15 17 46 6 5 5 5 5 5 6
Sth Korea 13 10 8 31 7 8 8 7 7 8 7
Japan 9 6 10 25 8 11 10 10 10 10 10
Italy 8 10 10 28 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
France 7 16 17 40 10 7 7 8 8 7 8
Ukraine 7 5 15 27 11 10 11 11 11 11 11

The Weighted Ranking Systems

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