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Stage: 3 and 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:1

Which countries have the most naturally athletic populations?

Below, we have provided the Beijing 2008 Olympics medal table.
Update: Data from the 2012 London Olympics is now available here.

What other information do you think should be taken into account to answer this question fairly?
 
Make a plan of the information you will collect and the calculations you will perform. Then carry out your plan to decide which countries are naturally most athletic.
 
Send us your top rated countries, together with your justification for the data and criteria you chose to include in your analysis.
 
In the Beijing 2008 Olympics the final medal table was as follows (spreadsheet CSV form)
 


Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
China 51 21 28 100
USA 36 38 36 110
Russian Fed. 23 21 28 72
Great Britain 19 13 15 47
Germany 16 10 15 41
Australia 14 15 17 46
Korea 13 10 8 31
Japan 9 6 10 25
Italy 8 10 10 28
Netherlands 7 5 4 16
France 7 16 17 40
Ukraine 7 5 15 27
Jamaica 6 3 2 11
Spain 5 10 3 18
Kenya 5 5 4 14
Ethiopia 4 1 2 7
Romania 4 1 3 8
Belarus 4 5 10 19
Norway 3 5 2 10
Canada 3 9 6 18
New Zealand 3 1 5 9
Slovakia 3 2 1 6
Brazil 3 4 8 15
Poland 3 6 1 10
Czech Republic 3 3 0 6
Hungary 3 5 2 10
Georgia 3 0 3 6
Argentina 2 0 4 6
Kazakhstan 2 4 7 13
Mexico 2 0 1 3
Cuba 2 11 11 24
Mongolia 2 2 0 4
Thailand 2 2 0 4
North Korea 2 1 3 6
Switzerland 2 0 4 6
Denmark 2 2 3 7
Azerbaijan 1 2 4 7
Zimbabwe 1 3 0 4
Belgium 1 1 0 2
Dominican Rep. 1 1 0 2
India 1 0 2 3
Latvia 1 1 1 3
Panama 1 0 0 1
Tunisia 1 0 0 1
Uzbekistan 1 2 3 6
Finland 1 1 2 4
Indonesia 1 1 3 5
Slovenia 1 2 2 5
Turkey 1 4 3 8
Bahrain 1 0 0 1
Bulgaria 1 1 3 5
Iran 1 0 1 2
Portugal 1 1 0 2
Cameroon 1 0 0 1
Estonia 1 1 0 2
Iceland 0 1 0 1
Ireland 0 1 2 3
Kyrgyzstan 0 1 1 2
Mauritius 0 0 1 1
Rep. of Moldova 0 0 1 1
Singapore 0 1 0 1
Taiwan 0 0 4 4
Trinidad/Tobago 0 2 0 2
Croatia 0 2 3 5
Israel 0 0 1 1
Sudan 0 1 0 1
Tajikistan 0 1 1 2
Armenia 0 0 6 6
Bahamas 0 1 1 2
Chile 0 1 0 1
Ecuador 0 1 0 1
Greece 0 2 2 4
Lithuania 0 2 3 5
Nigeria 0 1 3 4
Sweden 0 4 1 5
Afghanistan 0 0 1 1
Venezuela 0 0 1 1
Egypt 0 0 1 1
Malaysia 0 1 0 1
Morocco 0 1 1 2
Serbia 0 1 2 3
South Africa 0 1 0 1
Togo 0 0 1 1
Algeria 0 1 1 2
Austria 0 1 2 3
Vietnam 0 1 0 1
Colombia 0 1 1 2
 
 
 
Extension Challenge:
 
You could use data from previous Olympics to see the extent to which your criteria give a constant list of most athletic nations over time.
 
 

Notes and Background

The Plus article Harder, better, faster, stronger explores some of the same ideas as this problem.