Sporting Intelligence
FeaturesMelting potThe alternative best Olympic nations: Jamaica, Estonia, Mongolia, NZ, Georgia … and Australia

The alternative best Olympic nations: Jamaica, Estonia, Mongolia, NZ, Georgia … and Australia

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By Nick Harris

SJA Internet Sports Writer of the Year

1 March 2012

In the week in which we passed the 150-days-to-go to the London 2012 Olympics, Sportingintelligence has considered which nations are the best at winning gold medals when size of population is taken into account.

We’ve used the medals tallies from the 2008 Games in Beijing to produce the alternative medals table below.

In the real medal table, China was No1 with 51 golds, with the USA in second place on 36 golds, Russia in third with 23 and Great Britain in fourth with 19.

It’s no surprise that hosts China were top: they had home advantage and have a talent pool of more than 1.3bn people.

Similarly the wealthy USA, with 313m people making it the third biggest nation by population, should expect to be at or near the top, if not ahead of China.

Our table (below) considers the population of each nation and how many gold medals they won per one million people back home.

Jamaica, courtesy of its sprint stars led by Usain Bolt, take the No1 spot thanks to 2.22 gold medals per 1m people. Jamaica (popn. 2.71m) won six golds.

Jamaica are followed by Estonia, Mongolia, New Zealand and Georgia on this measurement, before the first ‘big’ nation, Australia, makes an appearance at No6.

Great Britain (No16 on golds per people) fares less well than Australia but better than Germany, Russia, Italy, America, Spain and France.

China is a lowly 46th by this measurement.

Athletes from 82 different countries shared the 302 gold medals in Beijing.

The biggest countries in the world that won no medals at all were Pakistan (the No6 country, with 179m people), Bangladesh (No9 country, 142m), Philippines (No12, 94m) and DR Congo (No19, 68m).

NB: In the table, the countries with national flags were all inside the top 20 in the real medal table. The others weren’t.

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