Yeah, yeah, we know that Russia won that overall medal count (and the most gold medals), but is that really the best indicator of Olympic victory? We don't think so. For starters, for almost the last twenty years either Germany or the United States has won the final medal count. Obviously there are some great winter sports athletes in both countries, but the reality is that both nations have a lot working in their favor if you’re going to judge victory on total medals. For starters, many of the top performing countries have significantly larger populations than their peers. Is it fair to judge Russia’s success (144 million people) with the medal count of Croatia (4 million people)? Secondly, the majority of Winter Olympic sports are pricey and the reality is, poorer countries have a harder time supporting their athletes with world-class training facilities, coaches, and equipment. We take that into account. And finally, we think temperature comes into play. It’s not much of a stretch to say that the Canadians have more favorable winter sports conditions than Australia, as an example.
So the team here at ValuePenguin wanted to take a deeper dive and see if we could determine who in fact overcame the largest odds at this years Sochi Olympics, as we give you our list of the top teams at the 2014 Winter Games.
The Medals Podium
In our study, this central European country overcame the largest odds on their way to winning 2 gold, 2 silver, and 4 bronzes medals at the Sochi Games. Slovenia ranked number one in our “citizens per medal point” (see methodology) metric with one point earned for every 147,011 citizens. By comparison, The United States team earned one medal point per 5,922,906 citizens. Slovenia was also the 2nd smallest country to medal at The Games with a national population of 2.06 million people. Latvia was the only country smaller, coming in at 2.03 million citizens. Other factors that vaulted Slovenia to the top were their per capita GDP, $22,000, meaning they were in the bottom half of medal winning countries on a national wealth basis. Additionally, Slovenia earned points for having the 10th warmest climate of the 26 nations who stood on the medals podium.
Austria comes in at number two on our list and was ranked seventh in overall medals at Sochi. Winning medals in 6 different events, this country of 8 million ranked 4th in our citizens per medal point’ earning a point for every 256,438 citizens. Conversely, Austria lost some points for their per capita GDP, $46,642, which made them the 8th wealthiest medal-winning country at the Winter Olympics. Austria’s climate placed them in the middle of the pack with annual temperatures in Vienna averaging around 50 degrees.
While only winning medals in two separate Olympic events, it’s fair to say that the Netherlands dominated the speed skating races in a way no country has done before. The country finished 5th in the total medal count and finishes 3rd in our final tally. Being a larger nation than both Austria and Slovenia, the Netherlands didn’t earn quite as many medal points per capita but still had a strong performance with one point per 356k citizens. Like Austria, the Netherlands were also docked a few points for prosperity...per capita GDP in the Dutch nation is almost $46,000. Finally, the Netherlands average annual temperature of 50.4 was slightly higher than our 2nd place winner.
The Rest of the Field
Here's the complete list of medal winning countries in our analysis:
|Country||Medals||Citizens per Medal Point||GDP Per Cap||Avg Temp||Score|
Here are the three questions we attempted to address when completing our study:
1. What was the value of the medals that each country won?
To answer this we first looked at the total number of medals won by each nation. From there we broke them out into gold, silver, and bronze totals. Then we wanted to account for golds being worth more than bronzes, as an example, so we multiplied gold medals by 3, silver medals by 2, and bronze medals stayed as they were. Once you do the multiplication and add up the totals you're left with our "Medal points" number that you'll see is referenced throughout our analysis. We think this is a more accurate way of looking at medal value than simply totaling all medals, or just looking at who won the most golds.
2. What is the value of the medal points on a per capita basis?
This is pretty straightforward. We wanted to account for a nation's size after looking at their total medal point count. Larger nations are at a distinct advantage over their smaller counterparts. So we simply took the country's population and divided it by their medal points to arrive at a 'Citizens per medal point' figure.
3. Is the country wealthy?
A country of means (wealth) is at an advantage over a poorer country, plain and simple. Nation's need money to hire the world's best coaches, build world class training facilities, and support their athletes as they train over the course of 4 years. To factor this in, we determined the per capita GDP of each country, ranked them, and assigned more points to countries with fewer national resources.
4. Is the climate in the country conducive to Winter Sports?
Because it's difficult to determine an average temperature across a entire nation, we chose the most populous city in each country and took the average annual temperature in that city. Again, we ranked them accordingly with the warmest countries receiving the most points to offset their disadvantage versus colder countries.