To find the world’s winningest Olympics countries, The Daily Beast didn’t want to use a straight medal count. After all, the games have become known for their tales of triumphant athletes overcoming adversity to stand on that famous podium. So we wanted to know: which countries have defied the odds?
We started by looking at the summer Olympic games played since 1992, to avoid the data complications associated with the preceding two major national upheavals: the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the breakup of the Soviet Union. This allowed us to work with data for the world as it currently exists, for the most part. We considered the number of medals over these five Olympic Games for each country—while accounting for total population; GDP per capita (with a base dollar year of 2005); life expectancy, with data from the United Nations, the USDA Economic Research Service, and the CIA World Fact Book.
Because gold is worth more than bronze and represents the pinnacle of Olympic sporting achievement, we weighted gold medals at five times bronze, and silver medals at three times bronze. Finally, we put our top-25 on a 10-point scale. Like in a perfect gymnastic routine, the country closest to 10.00 ended up on the top of the podium. Click through to see the winners.