Several times over the last couple of weeks I heard people on TV and off saying “ah, but China has billions of people to choose a team from” and other similar comments. Also on one occasion the closing comment from Lineker at the end of the transmission was that we were way ahead on medals based on population.

Well, I thought I’d actually work it out. Bottom line is, Lineker was wrong.  On that evening, as they had been for a couple of days already, New Zealand were WAY in front on gold medals per capita. GB were in front of China and USA but several others intervened.  Then James Kirani won the 400m and that shot Grenada to a huge lead, given there are only  105 thousand folk living there. The single medal for The Bahamas soon put them second, and Jamaica, despite having nearly 3 million folk, leapt ahead with all the sprint medals, pushing New Zealand down into 4th.

Team GB ended up in 11th spot, with South Korea 19th, North Korea 27th, one spot in front of USA at 28th. China languish at 48th. Here’s the top of the table.


If you take the American approach of counting all medals not just gold ones for the ranking… Grenada still WAY out in front at 952 medals per 100 million population, followed by Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, New Zealand 4th again, Team GB now 23rd, USA 49th, and China 74th.


Here’s the full table.

Source data:

I used Wikipedia for the population figures  – here.  Apologies if I’ve made any transcription errors, and if you think the population data is incorrect for any country, you are welcome to submit updated data to Wikipedia of course!! No, it won’t automatically be reflected in this table.