It depends on how success is measured. If the total number of medals won is the metric used, the United States is the most successful by far with a total of 2,299 medals since 1896. This is certainly an accomplishment of which the US and its athletes should be proud. However, it doesn’t exactly seem right to praise the US for winning more medals than a country like Norway that’s 60 times smaller. The US is relatively large, so a fairer comparison might examine the total medals won per capita. I report the top 10 recipients on a per capita basis, as well as the bottom 10 recipients and compare them to the United States.
After removing the tiniest countries (those smaller than 4 million people), it appears that the most successful country is Finland with 4.7 medals per million people. The other top 10 countries ten tend to be smaller European countries with a particularly strong showing from Scandinavia. Oceania, with Australia and New Zealand, also posts strong results. The United States ranks at 29th.
India is historically the least successful at the summer Games, with only 20 medals and the world’s second largest population. In general, countries Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent tend to underperform, as countries in these region comprise 6 of the bottom 10 countries.