How should the Olympic medal count be weighted?

If you Google “medal count”, China currently is shown in the lead since they have the most gold medals. The US has more medals overall. How would you weight the medals? I think a simple 3-2-1 point system would be fine but if I were an athlete, I’d probably rather have 1 gold than 3 bronze. So maybe 5-3-1. I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking the Dopers how they would do it.

Just the way they do it now. Total golds and total medals. Let each country/athlete/spectator make up their own system.

I’m sure a bronze for some piddly-ass country that never won a medal before means more to them than another gold means to China or the US.

Golds are the most meaningful by far.

If you asked athletes how they view the relative worth of the medals I reckon it’d be weighted more like 7:3:1 if not higher.

4-2-1 for me. I figure gold is as far above silver as silver is above bronze – and so I can’t sign on for your system, where (a) two silvers count for more than one gold, and (b) one silver counts for more than two bronze. (The lone exception: if you want to count Decathlon gold twice, you have my blessing.)

3-1-1 for me. Gold is worth more than the other two combined, but a silver isn’t really much different than bronze. Even announcers subconciously support this when they talk about “medaling” or “making it to the podium.”

Tie it to the commodity market.

Gold: 1616.87
Silver: 28.12
Bronze: 0.33

The difference in quality between first, second and third place at the Olympic level is minimal, so the several colors of medals should count the same, in a first approximation. It seems strange to value first place substantially more than second when the winner is only a small fraction better.

If we want to be more precise, we should look at the actual scores used to decide placement. For example, if the first-place time is 130 seconds, second-place is 132 and third is 136, gold should be worth 1, silver 0.985 (130/132) and bronze 0.956 (130/136). Or flip the ratios if higher numbers are better.

And of course, medals are easier in some sports than others. Some sports have more events, and some sports give bronzes to both third and fourth place. Plus, there’s the chance of ties increasing the number of medals awarded. I would divide the value of a medal by the number of medals actually won in that sport.

And finally, it’s probably better to weight each sport something other than equally. Soccer, with billions of players and spectators around the world, is a more “valuable” sport than, say, Water Polo. So even equalizing for number of medals, there should be some weight given to more “valuable” sports. I’m not sure how to objectively quantify this, though.

Glad you threw in that last sentence. I lettered in high school in water polo, so to me that sport is light-years ahead of soccer, which is stupid, boring and meaningless, no matter how many people think differently. :stuck_out_tongue:

But there is a basic truth there. If you win gold in the 100 meter air rifle category, you get a line in the stats for the day. Maybe. If you take the women’s all-around gold in gymnastics, you get on a Wheaties box.


I’d say that’s not too far off. I’d rather have 1 gold than 100 bronzes. Of course, I’d also rather have a bronze than a silver. Silvers are far more heart-breaking.

The NY Times has a fun infographic where you can rank the medal counts by population.

Not totally relevant to this discussion, but I’ve heard many times that fourth place is the absolute worst result you can have as an Olympic athlete. So close, but no medal at all.

My vote is for total medal count divided by GDP.

I agree with Pleonast overall. I don 't think a gold – or silver or bronze – in some “exotic” sport, practiced by few, should have the same weight as medals won in sports widely participated in.

Obviously, my opinion and a buck won’t buy you a cup of coffee, but please a gold in say, synchronized swimming is hardly worth a “certificate” in any major sport – take volleyball and/or basketball for example (I rule out football due to the exceedingly dumb U-23 rule + 4 stars. Have it or not). We’re talking the difference between sports with millions of competitors vs perhaps a few hundred specialists. Add to those, cr*p as shut-putt, hammer-throw, synchronized swimming, diving & gymnastics, triple jump (why not two, four or five?) et al, and please, homey, please…

I simply think the Olympics should reflect stuff people actually participate in – not cr*p you can practice for four years in order to medal.

A link for medal count divided by GDP, if you are interested.

Well, actually the link is a bit more elaborate than that…

According to “Billion GDP per Weighted Medal Rankings”, the USA is currently 56th. China is 53rd. Canada is 52nd. Grenada is 1st and Jamaica is 2nd. I think Grenada is benefiting from the single gold medal that they won, so that is a bit of luck, but it makes sense to me that Jamaica should be near the top.

I’ve been wondering this myself and was thinking something along the lines of 4, 3, 2. The reasoning is that silver and bronze are still huge achievements and in some ways total medals is more important than golds, I think. As an individual you might prefer one gold to two, three, maybe ten bronzes, but as a whole a country with 20 bronzes and silvers has more people at the absolute pinnacle of human ability than a country with just 5 medals, all gold. But of course you still can’t avoid the fact that gold is… gold, number one and THE best according to the most important sporting competition there is.

The top 10 nations so far:

North Korea
New Zealand


More important than weighting the medal count is weighting the events themselves. The idea that a 25 Meter Air Pistol gold is worth the same as a soccer or decathalon or gymnastics all-around gold is preposterous.

Dong Dong wears the same gold medal as Usain Bolt.

Is there an echo here? :dubious: