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China vs. USA for Olympics top spot? Nope -- try Grenada

August 7, 2012 |  9:51 am


As the London Olympics pull closer to their closing ceremony, it’ll be hard for anyone to catch up with … Grenada?

China and the United States are duking it out for the most medals before the Games end on Sunday, with Britain and Russia in a tight race for third.

But under an alternative method of scoring the Games that ranks countries by medals per capita rather than the raw number of gold, silver and bronze medallions hanging around their Olympians’ necks, Grenada is the undisputed leader, Slovenia is second and New Zealand leads Jamaica for third after 10 days of events.

The alternative rankings are calculated by a New Zealand government agency that says its system gives smaller countries -- such as, well, New Zealand -- a chance to shine. Day by day, Statistics New Zealand has posted the results.

Calculating the “medal strike rate” can lead to wild swings in the rankings and big wins for little countries: Tiny Grenada, a string of Caribbean islands with a population of roughly 100,000 people, shot to the top after winning a single gold medal, pushing New Zealand from second to third. No. 2 Slovenia has won only four medals, yet is far above the typical Olympic heavyweights.

Massive China, meanwhile, languished at 57th in the rankings. The not-quite-as-hefty United States fared only slightly better, coming in at 41st on the alternative count.

Another website gauging “Olympic Glory in Proportion,”, also includes a measurement of medals per gross domestic product -- a way of accounting for the fact that wealthier countries tend to muster more Olympic athletes. Bigger, more affluent countries have a clear edge when simply counting up the medals, computer scientist Craig Nevill-Manning wrote on his website.

“My bias?” Nevill-Manning added. “I’m originally from New Zealand.”


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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: Kirani James of Grenada celebrates winning the men's 400 meters on Monday, sending his country to the top of some Olympic medals rankings. Credit: Diego Azubel / European Pressphoto Agency