Jul 15, 2021
Jul 15, 2021

What is the Olympics medal table?

How does the Olympics medal table work?

How many medals do you need to top the Olympics medal table?

Tokyo 2020 Olympics medal table predictions

Olympics facts and figures

What is the Olympics medal table?

During the Olympics, you will often see a country’s overall performance measured in relation to their ranking in the medal table. What is the Olympics medal table, how does it work, and how many medals does a country need to finish first in it? Read on to find out.

How does the Olympics medal table work?

The Olympics medal table ranks every country that has won at least one medal at that year’s Olympics in order of the number of gold medals they have won, followed by the number of silver medals, and then the number of bronze medals.

With 46 gold medals, the US topped the medal table at Rio 2016 for the 17th time.

For instance, a country that has won three gold medals is ranked above a country that has won two. A country that has won three gold and five silver medals is ranked above a country that has won three gold and four silver medals, and a country that has won three gold, five silver, and ten bronze medals is ranked above a country that has won three gold, five silver and nine bronze medals.

While an overall ‘winner’ of the Olympics is not officially declared, the country that finishes in first is generally perceived to be the strongest performer at that edition of the Olympics.

Some countries’ media organisations (particularly in the US) list the medal table simply according to the total number of medals won. It is worth noting that the method which differentiates by gold, silver, and bronze is considered the traditional format and is used by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

A country’s ranking in the medal table is often placed under greater scrutiny than their actual medal total. Most famously, Great Britain’s return of one gold medal that culminated in a widely derided 36th position at Atlanta 1996 resulted in considerably increased funding for Team GB, as reflected by their top 10 finishes at the five Olympics since.

More recently, the Chinese media were notably critical of their country’s third-place finish at Rio 2016, having ranked in the top two at the three preceding Games. The United States finished first in the most recent medal table at Rio 2016, with Great Britain, China, Russia, and Germany comprising the rest of the top five. Host nation Brazil ranked 13th, with Tokyo hosts Japan coming in sixth.

Rio 2016 Olympics medal table: Top five countries

Country

Gold

Silver

Bronze

Total

United States

46

37

38

121

Great Britain

27

23

17

67

China

26

18

26

70

Russia

19

17

20

56

Germany

17

10

15

42

How many medals do you need to top the Olympics medal table?

The last 10 countries to top the Olympics medal table are detailed in the table below:

Medal counts of recent nations to finish first in Olympics medal table

Medal counts of recent nations to finish first in Olympics medal table

Olympics

Country who finished first in
medal table 
and medal total

No. of events

Total golds won

Total medals won

Countries that medalled

Moscow 1980

USSR
G: 80 S: 49 B: 46 Total: 195

203

39.22%

30.90%

36

Los Angeles 1984

United States
G: 83 S: 61 B: 30 Total: 174

221

36.73%

26.05%

47

Seoul 1988

USSR
G: 55 S: 31 B: 46 Total: 132

237

22.82%

17.86%

52

Barcelona 1992

Unified Team*
G: 45 S: 38 B: 29 Total: 112

257

17.30%

13.74%

64

Atlanta 1996

United States
G: 44 S: 32 B: 25 Total: 101

271

16.24%

12.00%

79

Sydney 2000

United States
G: 37 S: 24 B: 32 Total: 93

300

12.33%

10.03%

80

Athens 2004

United States
G: 36 S: 39 B: 26 Total: 101

301

11.96%

10.90%

74

Beijing 2008

China
G: 48 S: 22 B: 30 Total: 100

302

15.89%

10.44%

87

London 2012

United States
G: 46 S: 28 B: 30 Total: 104

302

15.23%

10.87%

86

Rio 2016

United States
G: 46 S: 37 B: 38 Total: 121

306

15.03%

12.44%

86

*The Unified Team that competed at the Barcelona 1992 Olympics was comprised of 12 former Soviet republics (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan).

As highlighted in the table above, the United States have topped the medal table at five of the last six Olympics, as well as 17 of the 27 Olympics to date. Only six other countries have achieved this feat; the USSR on five occasions, France in 1900, Great Britain in 1908, Germany in 1936, the Unified Team in 1992, and China in 2008.

Both the medal haul and percentage of gold medals required to top the medal table has gradually decreased in recent decades. However, this is skewed by the fact that the USSR and United States’ medal returns at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics respectively were greatly assisted by the other’s boycott.

Discounting these, at the last eight Olympics the country that finished first in the medal table has won an average of 44.62 gold medals and 108 total medals, translating to 15.69% of the gold medals available and 12.29% of the total medals. Of these, six won at least 15% of the gold medals available.

Notably, the percentage of total medals won by the country finishing first has not fallen below 10% during this time, despite the fact that the number of countries that won at least one medal at each Olympics has increased from 52 at Seoul 1988 to 86 at Rio 2016.

Of the last eight countries to top the medal table, an average of 41.31% of their total medals won have been golds, with all returning a proportion of at least 35%. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this highlights that to stand a chance of finishing first in the medal table, countries need to ensure that a significant quantity of their total medals won are golds.

In terms of athlete performance, the last eight countries to top the medal table sent an average of 554 athletes to the Olympics, who returned an average of 0.08 gold medals and 0.20 total medals won per athlete. This implies that countries aiming to enjoy a high ranking in the medal table need to qualify a considerably high number of athletes and aim to ensure that 18-22% of these win a medal, with 7-10% winning gold.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics medal table predictions

Country

Golds

United States

46.5

China

36.5

Japan

27.5

Russian Olympic Commitee

17.5

Great Britain

13.5

Germany

13.5

Netherlands

13.5

Australia

12.5

France

12.5

South Korea

11.5

True to form, the United States are expected to top the medal table at Tokyo 2020. They are 1.112* with Pinnacle to achieve the feat and are 2.330* to win over 46.5 gold medals. They are followed in Pinnacle’s medal markets by China, who are 6.320* to lead the medal table and 1.751* to win over 36.5 golds.

Notable countries to keep an eye on in this year’s medal table include Japan and Brazil, the hosts and their predecessor. Japan, who will be expected to benefit from host nation advantage, are 2.220* to win over 27.5 gold medals, while Brazil are 1.740* to win over 4.5.

Such a strong performance from Japan could mean that one of Russia (competing in Tokyo as the Russian Olympic Committee), Great Britain or Germany lose their spot in the top five. The former are 1.478* to win over 17.5 gold medals, while Team GB and Germany are 1.495* and 1.925* respectively to win over 13.5.

Looking forward to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics? Get great odds and bet on numerous Olympics markets and medals markets with Pinnacle.

Odds subject to change

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