Generally the most successful countries on the Olympic medal tally are also some of the biggest countries in terms of population. This may seem unfair, as they have a larger population pool from which to develop athletes. Using per capita data to rank success of nations at the Olympic Games is an alternative to the popular listing based on total gold medals won.
The following analysis is based on the total medals won by a country through the modern Olympic history. We have also calculated the per capita medal results for the 2008 Olympic Games. though with the small sample size a single medal to a small nation can make a big difference to the ranking. Below are tables of the top countries based on the total all-time medals won during the Summer Olympics, ranked relative to the nation's population. See the complete medal list and population data from which this analysis is derived, and also a discussion of different ranking systems .
The Finns are Best when you consider Total Medals
Finland is the most successful currently competing country at the Olympic Games based on their population size and the number of Olympic medals won (irrespective of whether you use
the total golds or total medals metric). Finland have won 101 gold medals in 24 appearances at the Summer Olympics, with a current population of just over 5 million people in 2011. Denmark, with a similar population and from the same region, have won only 43 gold medals. A country which has leaped in to the top 10 is the small nation of Grenada which won its first gold medal in 2012, when runner Kirani James won the Men's 400 meters, and a population of about 100,000. Another standout on the top 10 list is another Caribbean country The Bahamas, with their 5 gold medals from sailing and athletics, and with a current population of less than 400,000 people.
When using this method to rank countries for the 2008 Olympic Games results. smaller countries tended to dominate the list, as it only required a medal or two for them to rank highly. Using the all-time list as done here provides a larger data set and gives a more accurate and representative result.
The two tables below show the ranking based on (1) gold medals won, and (2) total medals won.
Table: Top ranked teams based on GOLD MEDALS per million population