Now that the party is over and focus, not always positive, turns to the Paralympics games, the Rio 2016 Olympics medal table paints a familiar picture with the USA sitting on top of the pile with nearly double the number of gold and total medals than any other nation. The big surprise in Rio 2016 however is the performance of team GB who for the first time have snatched second place on the podium from China, a super power in world and Olympic sport.
Taking 27 gold medals to China’s 26, team GB have swapped steps with China from London 2012 (see medal table here
) in what has been a memorable games and their most successful for nearly 100 years for team GB.
Not wanting to take anything away from what has been an excellent games, we’ve taken an alternative look at the Rio 2016 Medal Table and thrown a curve ball into the mix. Is it really a huge surprise that USA and China (and Russia for that matter) sit aloft the table? These nations have a significantly higher population than the majority of other teams to pick their best athletes. Is it really a surprise that Jamaica with a population of just 3 million are not top of the table when USA have nearly 100 times the population to choose from? Here are our alternative medal tables based on population and Gold medals (per million people) and total medals.
So, using population as a form of ‘handicap’ we can see that Jamaica did in fact top the medal table at Rio 2016 with 6 golds from a population of just 3 million, that’s 1 gold medal per half a million people, closely followed by Croatia and New Zealand with 1 gold medal per 0.8 and 1 million people respectively. USA languish in 13th position with 1 gold medal per 6.9m people and china prop up the table with 1 gold per 52.2m people. As for team GB, a respectable 7th with 1 gold medal per 2.4m.
If we look at total medals, it’s a similar story with the top 3 swapping positions, GB remaining steady in 7th, USA slip to 15th and China remain rooted to the foot.
Of course, this only paints part of the picture and financial investment should be taken into account. Whilst we don’t have figures for all nations, we do know that team GB invested around £350m (including Paralympics) for Rio 2016, that’s £12.9m per gold making them literally worth more than their weight in gold, or a more palatable £5.2m per medal. The medal table would likely be turned on its head once more if we factored in financial investment. All that said, we should not get fixated on cost as it’s been a fantastic global event and provided entertainment and drama that a Hollywood blockbuster could only dream of. The power of sport and the Olympic movement should not be underestimated.