OLYMPICS

Alternative Tokyo Olympics Medal tables: how would countries rank according to other factors?

In Google Trends alternative Tokyo 2020 Olympics medal tables, San Marino, Ethiopia, and Japan top the rankings, with the US and China way down the list.

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Alternative Tokyo Olympics Medal tables: how would countries rank according to other factors?
ALEKSANDRA SZMIGIEL REUTERS

There have been no surprises with the medal count leaderboard at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics. The USA currently leads the medal count race with 76 medals (at time of publication), followed by China with 69 medals, the Russian Olympic Committee (52 medals), Great Britain (45), Japan (39), Australia (35), Germany (30), Italy (29) and France (24).

It’s of course no coincidence that all of these countries are also some of the world’s largest economies with large populations. Undoubtedly, there is an intrinsic link between economic wealth and Olympic sporting success.

The fact that China’s ascendance in the Olympic medal leader board in recent years has coincided with its emergence as one of the world’s economic powerhouses is testament to this. Although the same cannot be said for India, so certainly investment in Olympic sports training programs, facilities and sports science is also key, which also comes down to economic wealth. What all of these countries have in common is the financial resources to invest heavily in training and molding the best Olympic athletes, as well as large populations from which they select and churn out the best talent.

Ryan Murphy of Team United States poses for a photo with his Gold, Silver and Bronze medals during the United States Swimming press conference on day nine of the Tokyo Olympic Games on August 01, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.

A Financial Times report puts Olympic success down to three factors: “population size, economic might and past performance”. While large and rich countries lead the medal count, little attention is paid to the handful of smaller countries that punch above their weight at each edition of ther ¡ Olympic Games.

But what would happen if  the Olympic medals were re-ranked based on other factors? Well, Google Trends has put together a series of Alternative Olympic Medals Table that take in into account population size, wealth and search interest.

“In addition to the official medal count, we decided to see what the equivalent medal breakout would resemble if we normalized each country’s medal tally by their population, as well as by their GDP,” says Google. “Additionally, we computed new medal rankings and counts by looking at the volume of search interest in Sports and Olympics topics.”

Population: San Marino leads medal count

Normalizing for per capita, San Marino leads the medal count with 370 medals, Bermuda is second with 98 medals, New Zealand third with 18 medals, followed by Fiji (14 medals), Croatia (13 medals), Slovenia (12), Georgia (11), Estonia (10), Jamaica (10) and Switzerland (9) to make up the top 10. The highest ranking conventional Olympic powerhouse is Australia in 11th with 9 medals.

Bronze Medalist Alessandra Perilli of Team San Marino on the podium following the Trap Women's Finals on day six of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Asaka Shooting Range on July 29, 2021 in Asaka, Saitama, Japan.

GDP: San Mariano leads again

Normalizing for the size of each country’s economy, San Marino comes out on top again with 164 medals, followed by Fiji with 60 medals, Georgia (49 medals), Jamaica (48), Kosovo (35), Kyrgyzstan (34), Armenia (31), Mongolia (30), Croatia (19) and Bermuda (18). Russia is 25th with three medals, with China and the US bottom of the table with one medal each.

Sports search interest: Ethiopia, Israel, Serbia top rank

Based on search trends, if medals were given out based on sports search interest, Ethiopia would top the list with 39 medals. Israel and Serbia come second with 20 medals, followed by Croatia with 18 medals, Great Britain (16), Namibia (16), Uganda (16), Iran (14), Egypt (14) and Greece (13). The United States comes in joint 65th with five medals, while China shares 75th place with four medals.

Serbia's women's basketball players celebrate after winning the quarterfinal match against China.

Olympics search interest: Japan and Russia in top three

There are some more familiar traditional Olympic leaders at the top of this ranking. If medals were given out based on Olympics search interest, Japan leads the medal count with 43, followed by Bermuda (22), Russia (20), Hungary (19), Kazakhstan (17), Turkmenistan (16), Brazil (15), Belarus (14), Cuba (14), Kyrgyzstan (14) to make up the top 10.

Australia sits in 11th with 13 medals, China is 12th along with five other countries on 12 medals, while the US languishes in 18th with 11 medals.