Summer Olympics All-Time Medal Count
As the medal counts are being tallied in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, we’re starting to see new countries move up the all-time standings. China is the most obvious country and a real contender to take home the most medals in this Olympics and move up in the all-time chart. In the above animated bar chart, we can see how the top 10 medal counts by country have changed since the first Olympics in 1896.
This chart starts off in a chaotic way since the first few Olympics had very few countries participating. Only in the post-WWII era do we start to see more countries taking part and the Olympics gradually turn into what it is today with 86 countries taking home at least one medal in the 2016 Olympics.
Russian and German Olympic Teams
Russia and Germany have gone through many changes throughout the history of the Olympics, so we have had to make some assumptions with the animated chart numbers. Before the Soviet Union, Russia was known as the Russian Federation. After the Soviet Union fell, in 1992 it was the Unified Team, then back to the Russian Federation. Now after the doping scandal that prevented the Russians from competing in 2016, Russia is now competing under the ROC (Russian Olympic Committee). For simplicity’s sake, all of these names have been grouped together as Russia. In the case of Germany in many Olympics during the cold-war, Germany competed as East Germany for the Soviet controlled portion of Germany and West Germany for the democratic portion. All of the medals gathered by these 2 countries have been grouped into Germany.
Pre-WWI Olympic Era: 1896 - 1912
The interesting thing about the Olympics is how much they were affected by world events. Before WWI, the Olympics were relatively casual and only involved 13 countries in 1896 up to 29 in 1912. The 1916 Games were cancelled because of WWI.
1896 Olympics: Athens, Greece
US Wins Medal Count with 20
The Greeks hosted the first modern day Olympics and took an early lead in the medal count by taking home 47 medals. One of the most notable events of that first Olympics was a Greek shepherd winning the marathon. The United States dominated the athletics and took home 20 medals.
1900 Olympics: Paris, France
France Wins Medal Count with 111
The 1900 Olympics were held in Paris and coincided with a World’s Fair. Once again, the host nation took home the most medals. France’s medal total was 111 and for a second time, the United States took home the 2nd most.
1904 Olympics: St. Louis, US
US Wins Medal Count with 248
The 1904 Olympics were held in the United States in St. Louis and like the 1900 Olympics, were held to coincide with a World’s Fair. The US took home a whopping 248 medals, far and away more than all the other countries combined. As you can see in the chart, once the US look the medal count lead, they never lost it.
1908 Olympics: London, UK
Great Britain Wins Medal Count with 146
The 1908 Olympics were held in London, and like every other previous Olympic Games, the host nation took home the most medals. Great Britain totalled 146 in 1908.
1912 Olympics: Stockholm, Sweden
Sweden Wins Medal Count with 65
The last Olympic Games before WWI took place in Stockholm in 1912. Sweden was able to follow suit and win the medal count by 1 over the United States – 65 to 64.
At the end of this era, the standings were:
- United States – 427
- Great Britain – 234
- France – 156
- Sweden – 91
- Germany – 75
- Greece – 55
- Belgium – 32
- Hungary – 32
- Finland – 31
- Canada – 30
Inter-War Olympic Era: 1920-1936
1920 Olympics: Antwerp, Belgium
US Wins Medal Count with 95
Again affected by world events, the 1920 Olympics were notable in that Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Bulgaria weren’t allowed to participate since they were aggressor nations in the war. Held in Antwerp, Belgium, for the first time the host nation did not take home the most medals. Belgium took home the 3rd-most, 42, which is still impressive for a nation of their size. The United States took home the most with 95.
1924 Olympics: Paris, France
US Wins Medal Count with 99
The Olympics returned to Paris in 1924, and the French took home the 2nd most medals. Once again, the United States was the leader, ending up with 99. This would become the norm as the Games progressed throughout the years.
1928 Olympics: Amsterdam, Netherlands
US Wins Medal Count with 56
The 1928 games were held in Amsterdam and the Netherlands was 3rd in the medal count with 23. The United States and Germany were 1st and 2nd.
1932 Olympics: Los Angeles, US
US Wins Medal Count with 110
The 1932 games were held in the United States for the 2nd time, this time in Los Angeles. The US wound up with over a hundred medals that year.
1936 Olympics: Berlin, Germany
Germany Wins Medal Count with 101
The 1936 Olympics was one of the most infamous games, being held in Berlin in Hitler’s Germany. Germany had been promised the 1916 games, which were cancelled because of WWI. Many nations thought of boycotting the games because of Hitler’s treatment of Jews, which had been excluded from all German Olympic teams. In the end, all of the usual nations competed. One of the most impressive performances was of athlete Jesse Owens, who won 4 gold medals in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay, and the long jump. However, Germany did win the overall medal count with the US coming in 2nd.
At the end of this era, the standings were:
- United States – 844
- Great Britain – 365
- France – 303
- Sweden – 254
- Germany – 239
- Finland – 172
- Italy – 141
- Belgium – 94
- Switzerland – 86
- Hungary – 84
Cold-War Olympic Era
1948 Olympics: London, UK
US Wins Medal Count with 84
The Olympics were not held in 1940 and 1944 because of WWII. They picked up again in 1948 in London for the 2nd time. Although Great Britain’s economy had been seriously affected by the war, they did their best to put on an impressive Games. Germany and Japan were not allowed to participate due to WWII and the Soviet Union also did not compete. The United States once again was the leader in the medal count.
1952 Olympics: Helsinki, Finland
US Wins Medal Count with 76
The 1952 Olympics were held in Helsinki, Finland and were the first Olympics to have the Soviet Union competing. It was the first cold-war Olympics with the US and Soviet Union going neck and neck in the medal count with the US just eking it out with 76 to the Soviet Union’s 71.
1956 Olympics: Melbourne, Australia
Soviet Union Wins Medal Count with 98
The 1956 Olympics were held for the first time in Australia in Melbourne. This time, the Soviet Union won the medal count over the US 98 to 74. The host nation came in 3rd with 35 medals. China did not compete in this Olympics because Taiwan had been allowed to compete.
1960 Olympics: Rome, Italy
Soviet Union Wins Medal Count with 103
The 1960 Olympics were held in Italy for the first in Rome. The Soviet Union once again won the medal count beating the US 103 to 71. The host nation came in 4th with 36 medals. Germany, which was made up of both East and West Germany came in 3rd.
1964 Olympics: Tokyo, Japan
Soviet Union Wins Medal Count with 96
The 1964 Olympics were held in Asia for the first time in Tokyo, Japan. The Soviet Union won the medal count again, but only by 6 medals over the US - 96 to 90. The host nation Japan did well and took home 29 medals.
1968 Olympics: Mexico City, Mexico
US Wins Medal Count with 107
The 1968 Olympics were held in Mexico City, Mexico, with the altitude having a major effect on many of the competitions. With less oxygen in the atmosphere, distance runners had a very hard time and posted slow times. However, events like the long jump benefitted from less gravity with a world record of 8.9m being set. The US took back the medal lead from the Soviet Union with a total of 107 medals.
1972 Olympics: Munich, Germany
Soviet Union Wins Medal Count with 99
The Olympics were back in Germany for the first time since WWII in 1972, held in Munich. International terrorism touched the Olympics for the first time as terrorists took 11 hostages from the Israeli Olympic Team, all of whom were later killed.
1976 Olympics: Montreal, Canada
Soviet Union Wins Medal Count with 125
The Olympics were again held in North America in 1976, in Montreal, Canada. The Soviet Union once again took home the most medals with 125 and East Germany counted 90. The US had 94.
1980 Olympics: Moscow, USSR
Soviet Union Wins Medal Count with 195
The 1980 Olympics were held in Moscow, USSR, and were boycotted by 63 nations in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Since so few countries participated, the vast majority of medals were awarded to the Soviet Union and East Germany.
1984 Olympics: Los Angeles, US
US Wins Medal Count with 174
The 1984 Games went back to the US, to Los Angeles for the 2nd time. This time, it was the turn of the Iron Curtain nations to not participate, making it possible for the US to take home their most medals ever, 174, 83 of which were gold.
1988 Olympics: Seoul, South Korea
Soviet Union Wins Medal Count with 132
The last Games of the cold-war era, the 1988 Olympics were held in Seoul, South Korea. It would be the last time the Soviet Union and East German teams would exist. Their last Game were impressive, with the Soviet Union receiving 132 medals and the East Germans 102.
At the end of this era, the standings were:
- United States – 1,802
- Russia – 1,018
- Germanu – 988
- Great Britain – 588
- France – 482
- Sweden – 432
- Italy – 386
- Hungary – 367
- Finland – 285
- Japan – 246
Post-Cold-War Olympic Era
1992 Olympics: Barcelona, Spain
Unified Team (Russia) Wins Medal Count with 112
After the Soviet Union fell, the Unified Team represented all of the former Soviet republics except for the Baltic States who all competed separately. East and West Germany also went back to competing as a unified Germany. Yugoslavia also was split into several republics that all competed separately. South Africa also competed at the Olympics for that first time since 1960 after eliminating apartheid.
1996 Olympics: Atlanta, US
US Wins Medal Count with 101
Back in the US again, the US team was able to take the leading medal count decisively over the Russian Federation and Germany. China came in 4th, which is a sign of things to come from the Chinese Team.
2000 Olympics: Sydney, Australia
US Wins Medal Count with 93
Back in Australia for the first time since 1956, the US team barely won the medal count over the Russian Federation. China and Australia tied for 3rd with 58.
2004 Olympics: Athens, Greece
US Wins Medal Count with 101
Back in the Athens for the first time since the 1st modern-day Olympic Games over 100 years ago, The US won the medal count over the Russian Federation 101 to 90. China finished 3rd with 63.
2008 Olympics: Beijing, China
US Wins Medal Count with 112
The Olympic Games made it to China for the first time and it was a perfect chance for the Chinese Team to show the world that they were a major player in sports. They ended up short of the medal count lead, however, with 100. But there was no question that China had taken over from Russia as the team most able to threaten the US dominance at the Games.
2012 Olympics: London, UK
US Wins Medal Count with 104
In 2012, London became the first city to host the Olympics 3 times. The US continues their dominance, beating out the Chinese Team by 13 medals. The host nation Team GB also performed well and came in 4th in the medal count.
2016 Olympics: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
US Wins Medal Count with 121
This was the first Olympic Games to be hosted in South America. After the doping scandal in the Sochi Olympics, the Russian Federation was still able to compete, but the scandal affected them in future Olympics where they now compete as the Russian Olympic Committee. China fell off significantly from their previous medal counts to 70 and Team GB surprised everyone by coming in 3rd with 67 medals. The US won the medal count for the 6th time in a row. Will that change in Tokyo 2020?
As of the 2016 Olympics, the standings were:
- United States – 2,542
- Russia – 1,555
- Germanu – 1,367
- Great Britain – 864
- France – 739
- Italy – 589
- China – 546
- Australia – 495
- Hungary – 495
- Sweden – 495