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Sochi Olympics: The most efficient countries and the masters of futility

 The Olympic Flag waves as part of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia
The Olympic Flag waves as part of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia
Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

In a previous article, a mathematical formula was used to determine the efficiency of athletes that represented various countries in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. The formula is the following:

Efficiency = Number of total medals won/Number of athletes

Alternative measures have been used in the past. The most common has been to divide the number of medals by the population of the country. However, this measure is not realistic since not everybody is an athlete and not every country is rich enough to send a large number of athletes to the Olympics. For example, because of its huge population, using such a measure China would always be ranked quite low despite a good performance.

The measure of efficiency presented here is a more realistic measure that show how well athletes that actually participated in the Olympics performed.

Based on this measure, for the London Olympics, Jamaica was the best, getting an efficiency rating of 0.24. The next most efficient countries were China and Iran with an efficiency rating of 0.23. The rating for the U.S. was 0.17 and for Russia it was 0.18.

Also, as a measure of futility, the countries that did the worst in the London Olympics were arguably those who sent the most athletes but won no medals. By this measure, Nigeria was the worst with 53 athletes and Israel which sent 38 athletes and won no medals. Portugal also performed miserably by winning only a single medal while sending 80 athletes to London.

Russia won 33 medals at Sochi, the highest number of all the participating countries and the U.S. had the second highest number with 28 medals. However, using the measure of efficiency presented above, the most efficient country was Netherlands followed by Belarus and Norway. Here are the top 12 countries based on our measure of efficiency:

  1. Netherlands 0.5854 (41 athletes, 24 medals)
  2. Belarus 0.2500 (24 athletes, 6 medals)
  3. Norway 0.1940 (134 athlete, 26 medals)
  4. Russia 0.1460 (226 athletes, 33 medals)
  5. France 0.1429 (105 athletes, 15 medals)
  6. Sweden 0.1415 (106 athletes, 15 medals)
  7. China 0.1364 (66 athletes, 9 medals)
  8. Austria 0.1308 (130 athletes, 17 medals)
  9. Germany 0.1242 (153 athletes, 19 medals)
  10. United States 0.1217 (230 athletes, 28 medals)
  11. Slovenia 0.1212 (66 athletes, 8 medals)
  12. Canada 0.1131 (221 athletes, 25 medals)

The masters of futility at Sochi were Romania and Estonia which sent 24 athletes each, winning no medals. Next came Spain and New Zealand, which sent, respectively, 20 and 15 athletes, again winning no medals.

Two other countries also performed rather poorly. Slovakia sent 62 athletes and Kazakhstan sent 52 athletes. Each country won only a single medal. Finally, Ukraine sent 42 athletes and won only 2 medals.

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