As much as the Olympics manage to unite athletes and fans across the world, it also demonstrates the severe disparity among participating countries. At this point in the London Games, 80 different countries have been awarded a total of 761 medals.
Not surprisingly, the U.S., the country with the world's largest gross domestic product (GDP) ($15 trillion) and third largest population (314 million), is leading the medal count with 90 medals—39 gold, 25 silver and 26 bronze.
It should stand to reason that a country among the global leaders in available financial and human resources would be far more successful in athletic events that require elite athleticism, expensive training and state-of-the-art facilities.
On a topical level they are. In sheer gross medal count (GMC), the U.S. is right where they belong, jockeying for top position with the People's Republic of China and pulling away from fellow powers Great Britain and the Russian Federation.
This interactive map maintained by the Huffington Post does an excellent job illustrating the competitive climate at the London Games.
What's interesting is if you consider the efficiency of each country relative to its individual resources. Researcher Simon Forsyth has posted analysis of each country's GMC relative to its population and GDP.
Looking at his breakdown, Grenada, with a population of 109,011 people and a GDP of 1.45 billion, throws the curve with its one gold medal, but the focus shouldn't be on those small country outliers. Note the comparison of the U.S. to counterparts Great Britain and China.
In total medals divided by GDP, the U.S. posts 5.9626 medals per trillion dollars of GDP, placing it 64th overall. China posts 7.0797 medals per trillion dollars of GDP, slotting it at 59th overall and Great Britain comes in at 36th overall with 23.8853 medals per trillion dollars of GDP.
Looking at strictly gold medals, the U.S. comes in at 39th overall with 2.5838 Golds per trillion dollars of GDP, China at 34th with 3.2743 Golds per trillion dollars of GDP and Great Britain currently 15th with 11.0580 Golds per trillion dollars of GDP.
Relative to population, the results for the U.S. are slightly better.
Analyzing total medals against population, the U.S. ranks 42nd with 0.2868 Golds per million people, ahead of China who currently sits 65th with 0.0596, but still behind Great Britain at 16th with 0.8565. With respect to Gold medals, the gap widens among the three countries. China falls to 41st with 0.0275 Golds per million people, the U.S. comes in at 22nd with 0.1243, but they both trail Great Britain in 7th with 0.3965.
In the grand scheme of the Olympic games, this may seem like minutia, but it is an interesting alternative approach to medal counting and it certainly tells a more compelling story than the gross medal count.