Most Athletic Countries By Summer Olympic Medals Per Capita

60-kilogram Finnish boxer Mira Potkonen adds to her country's medal totals with a Bronze in 2016.
60-kilogram Finnish boxer Mira Potkonen adds to her country's medal totals with a Bronze in 2016.

The modern Olympics began in Athens in 1896, and included 14 nations and 43 games. 241 athletes participated in the Panathenaic Stadium in these first Summer Olympic games since the Ancient Greek era. The number of countries participating in the Olympics and the number of events has continued to grow ever since. In 2016, more than 240 nations including refugee representatives are involved in the Olympics held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Also, there are over 20000 sports men and women competing for medals in the 46 sports discipline spread across 306 events. The US alone has 555 athletes representing the country in the Olympics. At the Olympics, countries are ranked according to the number of medals won. The order of ranking follows the number of gold medals won by the country. Three of the traditional big name athletic countries, namely the United States, Germany, and Russia, are ranked highest among the countries with most medals over the history of Olympics. However, countries have also been ranked by the number of Olympic medals per capita. We took the 20 countries with the highest numbers of all-time Summer Olympic medals, and then ranked them based on their respective medal counts relative to their national population sizes. Some of these countries are discussed below.


With a population of 5.5 million people, Finland is ranked first among the countries competing in 2016 Rio Olympic games based on their population relative to the number of all-time Summer Olympic medals won. In its 24 appearances at the Summer Olympics, Finland has won 302 medals including gold, silver, and bronze. In the country, the share of medal translates to one medal for every 17900 people. With 302 medals, it translates to 551.4 medals per 10 million people and 187 gold medals per 10 million people from the 101 gold medals.


Sweden has competed in 26 Summer Olympics games in the history of the country, winning 483 medals in the process when including gold, silver, and bronze. The country has won 143 gold medals and with a population of 9.5 million people, 19649 people share each medal. The country’s’ Olympic medal per capita is 492.8 medals per ten million people and 151 gold medals for the same number of people.


Hungary made its 26th Olympic appearance at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Furthermore, in its previous 25 appearances at the Summer Olympics, the country has won 475 medals including gold, silver, and bronze. Hungary has won a total of 167 gold medals during the same period. The country which has a population of 10 million people is ranked third among the countries with the highest Olympic medals per capita and second in gold medal ranking after Finland. In Hungary, one medal is shared by 20792 people translating to 480.9 medals per 10 million people and 168 gold medals per the same number of people.

Nordic Success

When looking at the countries ranking among the top 20 for having the highest absolute numbers of Summer Olympic medals, other countries among those with the highest number of Olympic medals per capita include Bulgaria, with 297.8 medals for every 10 million people, Switzerland (235.2), Australia (233.4), Cuba (188.6), Germany (161.4), the Netherlands (157.0), Romania (138.5), Great Britain (121.6), Russia (107.3), and France (100.8). Nordic countries have been the most successful countries in the summer Olympics because of their relatively small population. However, these small countries, especially Finland and Sweden, have continued to perform exceptionally well at the Olympic events. Even with its small population, 1.6% of the United States' population, Finland has managed to earn 12% of the United States' total Summer Olympic medals.

Most Athletic Countries By Olympic Medals Per Capita

Rank Country All-Time Olympic Medals Prior to 2016 per 10 Million Current Residents
1 Finland 551.4
2 Sweden 492.8
3 Hungary 480.9
4 Bulgaria 297.8
5 Switzerland 235.2
6 Australia 233.4
7 Cuba 188.6
8 Germany 161.4
9 Netherlands 157.0
10 Romania 138.5
11 Great Britain 121.6
12 Russia 107.3
13 France 100.8
14 Italy 89.9
15 Canada 77.2
16 United States 74.9
17 Poland 72.1
18 South Korea 49.5
19 Japan 31.4
20 China 3.1

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