It’s easy to feel some nationalistic pride as yet another American athlete raises her arms in triumph in Sochi. In one sense, this is perfectly reasonable. Whatever country an athlete is from, winning a medal requires an unimaginable amount of hard work and talent. Even so, considering the United States is one of the world’s richest countries and one of its most populous, the USA’s medal haul at the Winter Olympics isn’t all that impressive.
At the time of this writing, the United States, with its hundreds of millions of people and multitrillion-dollar economy, is tied for the most medals with the Netherlands, a country without a tenth of the U.S.’s population or GDP. America’s performance is actually abysmal, though, considering its financial and human resources. As the following numbers from the website Medals Per Capita illustrate, the U.S. can boast only one medal per 16 million Americans, while Norway has one per a mere 280,000 Norwegians. Among the medal-winning countries, the U.S. has one of the lowest ratios of medal count to population. Similarly, the U.S. now stands at almost $800 billion of GDP for each of its 19 medals, while tiny Slovenia has a more impressive $8 billion for each of its six. (The data in the chart will be updated once per day throughout the Olympics.)
|Country||Population per medal||Population per gold medal||GDP per medal
|GDP per gold medal
|Medals||Gold medals||Population||GDP (in billions)|
Why? Maybe it’s America’s relatively warm climes, or preference for not-so-wintry sports. In some events, the U.S. hardly competes at all: In nearly a century of the Winter Olympics, Americans have won just one medal each in cross-country skiing, ski jumping, and curling. The relative success of countries like Slovenia, Latvia, and Austria shows that a country’s culture can be more important than its population or economy when it comes to securing Olympic gold.
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