Sunday, March 18, 2018
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The Winter Olympics by the Numbers

Photo courtesy of Julian Finney-Getty Images.

Since the first ever Winter Olympics in 1924, the number of countries and athletes participating has grown significantly each year. The combination of new sports and the increasing number of women and minorities competing are just some of the many reasons the Winter Olympics have continued to grow.

1928St. MortizSwitzerland4644382625
1932Lake PlacidUnited States2522312117
1948St. MortizSwitzerland6695927728
1956Cortina d'AmpezzoItaly82168713432
1960Squaw ValleyUnited States66552114430
1980Lake PlacidUnited States107284023237
2002Salt Lake CityUnited States2399151388677
2018PyeongChangSouth Korea29221680124292

In 2018, women represented 42.5% of athletes in PyeongChang, compared to just 4% of the field at the first Winter Olympics in 1924.

Years in which participation by women increased by 5% or more are highlighted.

Women could only compete in figure skating from 1924 until 1948, when the IOC introduced women’s skiing as well. At the 2014 Sochi Olympics, women actually outnumbered men for both Australia (31 women to 29 men) and Japan (65 women to 48 men).

Since the first Olympics, 239 different nations have competed in one or more Olympics. Obviously 239 nations have not competed at the same time, and the United Nations currently only has 193 members (the most it has ever had). The IOC recognizes 206 nations right now: the 193 members of the UN in addition to Palestine, the Cook Islands, Kosovo, Taiwan, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Aruba, and Hong Kong.

To see the list of all 239 nations and the years they were recognized by the IOC click here.

YearPossible CountriesActual Countries Competed

In 2018, 206 nations could participate in the Olympics, however only 92 nations had athletes qualify (44.7%).

While so many of these nations have competed and have been eligible to qualify for the Winter Olympics, not as many have been as lucky to actually win a medal. The all time medal count (not including the ongoing 2018 PyeongChang Olympics) puts Norway in the lead.

If the IOC considered the Soviet Union, Russian Empire, and Russian Federation all the same country, they would be right behind the Norwegians with 314 medals in 18 Winter Olympics appearances.

As of 8pm February 22nd, the PyeongChang medal count can cause some disruption to the top 5 all time standings. Germany has 25 medals in PyeongChang while Austria only has 13, jumping them up into third place all time. Norway, meanwhile, only continues to extend their all-time medal count lead as they lead in PyeongChang as well with 35 medals.

The United States has 282 medals all time at the Winter Olympics, and with their 21 in PyeongChang, they have crossed the 300 Winter Olympics medal count. Despite this accomplishment, many people are critical of Team USA at these Olympics. A number of athletes came extremely short of their medal expectations, including skier Mikaela Shiffrin in her best event – Slalom, snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis in snowboard cross (watch the video below in case you forgot who Lindsey Jacobellis is), figure skater Nathan Chen fell not once but twice (he’s the 18 year old figure skating phenom who was in every single Olympics Super Bowl commercial), skier Lindsey Vonn also failed in her best event – Super G, the US Men’s hockey team failed to medal, and the list goes on. The US has also been historically a powerhouse at short track speed skating, with the second most medals in the sport behind the Netherlands. In Sochi, the United States failed to medal in a single short track speed skating event, and this year the US only received one medal. To compare the two most recent Olympics with the two before that, the US won a combined 11 medals in Torino and Vancouver.

Since 1992, professional athletes have been allowed to compete in the Olympics. Bringing it back to the US Men’s Ice Hockey team, however, not a single active NHL player is on the roster. The team is filled with NCAA amateur athletes and retired, former NHL players such as Brian Gionta. This was the first time in 5 olympics that the NHL didn’t have a two-week Olympic break allowing athletes to compete. According to a statement by the NHL, “The NHL conducted polls in both Canada and the United States to determine if fans were in favor of the League taking a break in February to allow players to compete in the Olympics. In the United States, 73 percent said they were not in favor. In Canada, it was 53 percent against the break.” (Also can we get some info on the sampling bias of those polls please @NHL?) Beyond the fans apparently not wanting to watch the best athletes available compete for their country, the IOC announced they would not accommodate travel costs, insurance fees, or player and coach accommodations for the first time since 1998. NHL Commissioner was Bettman was extremely open to allowing NHL players compete in the Olympics…the team owners, however, did not like the idea of putting up their own money for the athletes to compete. So at least the US had a chance for another 1980 “Miracle on Ice” with college hockey players looking to take down every team as underdogs. (Spoiler alert – it didn’t work out this time).

Sticking with hockey, the US Women’s Hockey team defeated Team Canada late last night in a shootout – the first ever shootout in Women’s Ice Hockey since the event was added in 1998. Team Canada had won the previous four gold medals, including a 2014 overtime win against Team USA. The American Women outshot Team Canada 9-7 in the 4v4 overtime, as well as 42-31 in the entire game. In the shootout, the US’s goalie Maddie Rooney ended as the hero, saving the final penalty shot to give US the gold.

Excluding the results from PyeongChang, only 46 countries have ever won a medal in the Winter Olympics. 110 countries have never even appeared/qualified for a Winter Olympics, while 119 countries have been represented at least once but failed to win a medal. As a matter of fact, 78 countries have never won either a Summer or Winter Olympic medal.

Bermuda, despite appearing in a combined 25 Summer and Winter Olympics has the worst medals/appearance rate at .04 (1 medal in 25 Olympics). They’ve had 168 different athletes compete in the Olympics, but only heavyweight boxer Clarence Hill won a medal (a bronze at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal). Iceland is also a notable country with a poor medal/appearance rate , including zero medals in the Winter Olympics ever (for a country having the word ‘ice’ in its name, that’s extremely unexpected). Iceland has won only 4 medals in 37 total Olympic appearances (20 summer Olympics and 17 winter Olympics).

There are still 47 medals up for grabs in the final three days in PyeongChang. 259 medals have already been given out of the 306 available.