Counting the number of medals won at the Olympics may not be the fairest system of determining the most successful countries. For example, at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the USA finished second in the gold count to China, but were ahead of them in the total medal count. This created quite a bit of discussion about which ranking system should be used. The Americans were obviously quite happy with their usual system of counting total medals, but the rest of the world generally did not agree.
Maybe there is an even better system. Here is a description of a few of the different systems for ranking countries based on the medals won. You can see a comparison of how these systems affect the table order using the 2008 medal table as an example. We have also used the same ranking systems to compare the performances of the top medal winning athletes from the Olympic Games. See also the comparison of demographic ranking systems.
Weighted Ranking Systems
- Simple point system (3:2:1) — gold 3 points, silver 2 points, and bronze 1 point. A simple intuitive formula that is commonly used as an alternative to counting golds or total medals. According to Wikipedia, this weighting method is part of the Fibonacci sequence which values a gold medal as much weight as a silver and a bronze medal combined.
- New York Times weighted point system (4:2:1) — gold 4 points, silver 2 points, and bronze 1 point. An exponential points system giving ' Medal Points' described in the New York Times in 2008.
- 1908 London point system (5:3:1) — gold 5 points, silver 3 points, and bronze 1 point. This was the system first introduced in 1908 by the organizers of the London Games.
- Luchies Olympic Formula (LOF) point system (5:3:2) — gold 5 points, silver 3 points, and bronze 2 point. A system presented by blogger Michael Luchies. "Olympics;Gold Or Overall Medals Determine Winner? New Formula to Decide Games Champion" Published August 18, 2008 (no longer online)
- Topend Sports point system (6:2:1) — gold 6 points, silver 2 points, and bronze 1 point, something I tried to give more value to gold medals, while still giving some value to silver and bronze. There is no scientific theory to this one, it just seems reasonable to me.
- About Olympic Medal Ranking Systems
- Comparison of demographic ranking systems.
- Medal tables from all Olympic Games
- About Olympic Medals
Commenting is closed on this page, though you can read some previous comments below which may answer some of your questions.
- Madone52SL (2013)
It's all very subjective, but I like a system that weights diff between Gold & Silver, slightly more than diff between Silver & Bronze. 4-2-1 works, but makes Gold worth more than Silver & Bronze combined. 6-4-3 works, but diminishes power of Gold a bit too much. 5-3-2 works best to balance all criteria, and is also how we used to score Swim Meets in Minnesota. (4th was worth 1 pt.)
With medal counts thru 81 of 98 events, points then are:
- 1,000-100-1 is the only solution I can find quickly that matches the www.bbc.com medal Full Metal Table for the 2012 Summer Olympics. 100-10-1 worked at first (July 18, 2012) but today it broke but 1,000-100-1 now works. So some kind of weighting is being used by the BBC. It may include Total Metals which I did not try or demographics as you mention (I'm just playing around in my limited spare time at work) but at least I can detect some weighting is being used. I am sure there are many other solutions but I'd just like to know what The BBC uses since that Metal Table seems to be the one that is referenced the most by other sites and news outlets. Thanks if you have the real solution to share. (from Keith Weatherford, 10 Aug 2012)
- Hi Keith. I think you will find that the BBC is using a gold first order, no actual weighting for each medal.
- Has there never been a 6-5-4-3-2-1 point system at the Olympics? That Top 6 get Olympic points - make ALL-Olympian list? (from Einar Vilhjálmsson, 8 Aug 2012)