But the real winner of the Olympics is Norway. On a per capita basis, no other country earned as many medals as this small Nordic country. And it is not just Norway. Nine of the top ten per capita medal winners are European countries with populations smaller than 10 million inhabitants. The following chart shows the top 26 medal winners ranked on a per capita basis. (HT: Mark Warren)
What explains the dominance of European countries in the Olympics? History, climate, and geography certainly play a role. David Brooks suggests it also has to do with social capital and natural toughness. I personally wonder if sports are an emphasized expression of national sovereignty in Europe because other forms of national identity, such as currency and foreign policy, are increasingly transnational in scope. Some dedicated federalists in the European Union are pushing for an EU Olympic team, at least according to this web page. But I suspect the likelihood of that ever happening is close to zero.