Summer Olympics: Sports Historically Dominated By One Or Two Countries

By Sophy Owuor on February 16 2020 in Society

The US has won 2522 medals. Editorial credit: Petr Toman /
The US has won 2522 medals. Editorial credit: Petr Toman /
  • The US has twice as many Summer Olympic medals as any other country
  • The US has competitors in almost every sport
  • In 1980 Moscow Games, the US did not compete

The Summer Olympic Games are held every four years. The last Games were held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil while the 2020 Games will be held in Tokyo, Japan from July 24 to August 9. From just 241 (all male) athletes representing 14 countries in the first Summer Olympics Games in modern history, the multi-sport event has expanded to over 10,000 athletes and the participating countries have increased to over 200. Every season, these athletes have to go through rigorous qualifications before they can represent their countries. Unfortunately, only a few of these athletes get to go back to their countries with medals. The Games have traditionally been dominated by one country.

Most Successful Country

The United States has been the most successful country at the Summer Olympic Games. The country has participated in 27 of the past 28 summer games of the modern Olympics. Interestingly, the US has managed to top the final medal standing on 17 of the 27 occasions, including the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. The country has accumulated a total of 2522 medals (1022 gold, 795 silver, and 705 bronze), with the closest rival (defunct Soviet Union) accumulating less than half the medals (1010). The US has not only dominated the Summer Games but has also been the best nation at the Winter Games.

The US at the Olympics

The US has participated in all the modern Summer Games with an exception of the 1980 Games held in Moscow. It has also hosted the games four times and will be the host for the 2028 Games in Los Angeles, California. The 1896 Summer Olympics saw the US make their debut at the modern Olympics where they also dominated the medal standing, finishing top with 76 medals (40 gold, 19 silver, and 17 bronze), five medals more than their closest rival (Soviet Union) who finished second with 71 medals.

The US has either finished first or second in all the Olympics that they have participated except on two occasions (1976 and 1988) when they finished third. For the ten times that the US has failed to finish top in the summer games, the Soviet Union has topped the medal standings nine times and China once. The US has been the best team in all the Summer Games it has hosted. The 1904 Games in St Louis is considered the country’s best performance, having won a total of 239 medals (78 gold, 82 silver, and 79 bronze).

Why The US Has Been The Most Successful Nation

The US has dominated the Summer Olympic Games for several reasons. First, the country normally has one of the highest delegations at the Olympics. The US is represented in almost all the sports, increasing their chances of winning a medal. Secondly, politics has also played a role in their dominance. Some competitors like Germany and Russia have undergone political changes in the past. When the Soviet Union disintegrated, the medals were not transferred to Russia neither were the East and West German’s medals transferred to Germany. Finally, the US has been the strongest nation in most individual events such as swimming, long and short jumping, and trampoline.

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