Medals, GDP, and the 2016 Rio Olympics

With the 2016 Rio Olympics in the news and on many minds, we decided to investigate whether particular indicators were a predictor of performance. It is intuitive to think that higher GDP and the higher number of participants equates to more medals. However, we've found that neither of these are quite correlated, especially GDP. Our data set includes half a dozen countries with the most medals thus far. Our data is through Monday, August 15.

We've taken GDP per Capita from the World Bank and compared it to the number of medals the respective country has received. Medal and participant data is from the Rio Olympics website. As you can see in the two charts below, there is no real correlation.

In the chart below, we've compared the number of participants from the respective countries and compared it with the medals won. Again, not an immediate correlation, however the United States has the most medals and the highest number of participants at 552 - that's 16% higher than the next largest share which is Brazil at 475 participants.

The next chart shows the ratio of medals to participants - with the US in the lead.

It would seem that the best indicator of performance would be spending per country on programs and initiatives. Finding that data is proving to be difficult, but thus far we've found the following for 2015 in USD:

  • United States - 69 medals, $105M
  • Canada - 13 medals, $52M
  • Australia - 22 medals, $14M

Spending data was found through the each country's Olympic Committee website within their financial statements. Spending is for programs, grants, and the respective overhead.

Stay tuned as we sift through more data and try to uncover more.

Read more updates by Jill Mislinski