Olympic performance reflects population, GDP per capita, training and coaching, x factor and luck , of course.

Every Olympic games many of us respond with national pride and pleasure at the achievement of our young athletes.The recent women’s soccer football match between Canada and the U.S.A. was a thrilling match in which Canada as the underdog  came within a goal of defeating the top ranked American team. Some would say if the refereeing had been more competent they would have won. But in the end what counted was the magnificent performance of both teams in a very exciting match that will be remembered for a long time, played in the home stadium of the iconic Manchester United football team where players of the calibre of Bobby Charleton are legendary. This year so far despite the valiant efforts of many Canadian athletes the medal count for Canada is a bit disappointing. The host country Great Britain has had a tremendous games capturing 55 medals including 25 gold. Canada thus far has a total of 17 medals including 1 gold ,five silver and eleven bronze. It is difficult to predict but there is a reasonable chance that Canada will end up with 17 plus medals  overall and in terms of the total medal count as opposed to just counting gold will end up in 11th or 12th position, which as it happens is very close to its ranking in GDP per capita.(As of Saturday afternoon ,with only a few events left to be decided ,Greenwich time Canada’s medal total had in fact  risen to 18, 1 gold, 5 silver and 12 bronze) But if we look more carefully at the ranking in total medals and in factors like GDP per capita and total population we see some interesting anomalies which suggest that factors like coaching, training,specializing in certain sporting strengths, hosting the games and that special x factor which we can call the will to win and lady luck also play a very large role in the results allowing for a variance in medal production greater than what one might predict from economic or demographic factors alone.

For a country can be relatively poor with a small population  like Cuba or Jamaica and still do very well at the games.Or like the Bahamas and New Zealand be very small, 4.4 million in the case of New Zealand and under 400,000 like the Bahamas but affluent and also do well.

Medal count by country                  GDP/capita rank            Population rank

United States        104 (46g)                                   14                         3

China                       87(38 g)                                 88                        1

Great Britain          65 (29 g)                                  22                       21

Russia                     82 (24 g)                                 52                         7

Japan                    38 (7 g)                                     18                        10

France                    34 (11 g)                                  19                          19

Germany                44 (11 g)                                   20                         14

Italy                          28(8 g)                                  25                          22

Australia                 35(7 g)                                  6                            53

South Korea            28(13 g)                                34                          25

Netherlands            20 (6g)                               10                            59

Canada                      18 (1 g)                               9                               36

Hungary                    17(8 g)                               47                             84

New Zealand              13(5)                                 23                             122

Cuba                             14(5 g)                                92                            74

Jamaica                       12(4 g)                                89                          141

Brazil                          17 (3 g)                              53                               5

India                           6 (0 g)                               140                             2

Indonesia                    2 (0 g)                              110                             4

Bahamas                       1(1)                                    32                        205

Grenada                         1(1)                                   80                       194


About haroldchorneyeconomist

I am Professor of political economy at Concordia university in Montréal, Québec, Canada. I received my B.A.Hons (econ.&poli sci) from the University of Manitoba. I also completed my M.A. degree in economics there. Went on to spend two years at the London School of Economics as a Ph.D. student in economics and then completed my Ph.D. in political economy at the University of Toronto. Was named a John W.Dafoe fellow, a CMHC fellow and a Canada Council fellow. I also was named a Woodrow Wilson fellow in 1968 after completing my first class honours undergraduate degree. Worked as an economist in the area of education, labour economics and as the senior economist with the Manitoba Housing and Renewal Corporation for the Government of Manitoba from 1972 to 1978. I also have worked as an economic consultant for MDT socio-economic consultants and have been consulted on urban planning, health policy, linguistic duality and public sector finance questions by the governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan,the cities of Regina and Saskatoon, Ontario and the Federal government of Canada. I have also been consulted by senior leaders of the British Labour party, MPs from the Progressive Conservative party, the Liberal party and the New Democrats on economic policy questions. Members of the Government of France under the Presidency of Francois Mitterand discussed my work on public sector deficits. I have also run for elected office at the municipal level. I first began to write about quantitative easing as a useful policy option during the early 1980s.
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