The Winter Olympics are coming up. They will open on Feb. 4 in Beijing, the first city ever to host both the Summer and Winter events.
Getting into the spirit of things, 24/7 Tempo has ranked the countries by the most gold medals won at the Winter Olympics, using data from Olympedia. The results look very different from the Summer Olympics for two reasons – geography and economics. (Here are the locations of the last 31 Summer Olympics.)
The medal rankings are dominated by countries that have snow and slopes – countries in which there’s a tradition of winter sports. Lack of snow pretty much rules out countries with tropical climates from even participating, never mind winning medals. rec
Of course, there is a famous exception: the bobsleigh team from Jamaica that competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics, inspiring the film “Cool Runnings.” This Olympics, Jamaica has qualified for a historic three bobsled events, including the four-man bobsled.
Economics is also a factor in countries’ ability to compete in the winter games. Winter sports typically require expensive infrastructure and equipment, putting poorer countries at a disadvantage.
The No. 1 country with the most gold medals ever is Norway, with 132 gold medals and 368 medals in total at the Winter Games. Norway extends into the Arctic Circle, has mountains and snow, and winter sports are a national pastime, so it’s not surprising that it does well. It’s followed by the United States, with 105 golds and 305 medals of any color. (These are the states with the most ski resorts.)
It’s worth bearing in mind that Norway has a population of little more than 5 million people, whereas the U.S. has a population of more than 330 million. Norway and the U.S. are followed by Germany with 100 golds and a total of 259 medals.
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