In honor of the 36 gold medals won by the United States at the 2008 Summer Olympics, Fourth-Place Medal presents 36 interesting facts about the overall medal count:
1) China won the most gold medals at the Beijing Games with 51. They become the first country to crack the 50-gold mark since the Soviet Union in 1988. The most golds ever won in a single Olympics is 83 (United States, 1984).
2) It’s the first time since 1936 that a country other than the United States or the Soviet Union has led the medal count.
3) China won more golds in Beijing (51) than they did total medals in Atlanta (50).
4) ‘Project 119′ was a Chinese initiative designed toward winning golds in the medal-rich sports of swimming, track, rowing, kayaking and sailing. Reports are already crediting Project 119 with China’s dominance in the gold medal count, but Chinese athletes won just four golds in those sports. Their total was instead augmented by even better performances in Chinese-dominated events like diving, gymnastics and table tennis.
5) The United States won the same amount of golds (36) that they did in Athens, continuing a remarkable consistency that the nation has exhibited over the past half-century. American Olympic gold totals since 1952: 40, 32, 34, 36, 45, 33, 34, 83, 36, 37, 44, 38, 36 and 36. (The outlier of 83 was from the boycotted 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.)
6) The overall medal count was won by the United States for the fourth consecutive Olympics. The U.S. earned 110 medals, compared to China’s 100.
7) Per capita, China won one gold medal for every 25 million people in the country. The United States’ per capita rate was one gold for every 8.5 million. The tiny island nation of Jamaica, which won a staggering six golds in Beijing, had a per capita rate of one gold for every 450,000 residents. Had China won at that rate, the country would have earned 2,889 golds.
8 ) Greece won 16 medals as the host country in 2004. Four years later, the founders of the Olympics managed just four — their lowest total since 1992.
9) African countries won a total of 40 medals, the highest total in history for the continent.
10) Six countries won their first ever Olympic medals: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Mauritius, Sudan, Tajikistan and Togo.
11) Great Britain won 47 medals, the most in their history and a 17-medal increase from Athens. Expect an even higher total in 2012, when the Games will be held in London for the first time in 68 years. The last time Great Britain competed in a Summer Olympics on its home turf, they earned a disappointing three golds.
12) India has 17% of the world’s population. They won 0.31% of Olympic medals.
13) China: 19.8% of population, 10.4% of medals.
14) United States: 4.6% of population, 11.5% medals.
15) Jamaica: 0.041% of population, 1.15% medals.
16) Iceland was the least populous country to win an Olympic medal.
17) Pakistan was the most populous country not to win an Olympic medal (164 million residents, sixth-largest nation in the world).
18) Michael Phelps would have finished tied for 9th in the gold medal count, ahead of countries including France, Netherlands, Spain, Canada, Argentina, Switzerland, Brazil and Mexico.
19) The rest of the world won seven golds in men’s swimming events. Phelps, of course, won eight.
20) The United States won the most golds (7) and most total medals in the track competition (23), despite having what was widely considered a disappointing meet
21) More proof that boxing is dead in the United States: the country earned just one medal (a bronze) in the 12 boxing events. Even after three straight disappointing boxing performances at the Summer Games, the U.S. has still won the most Olympic boxing medals (109) in history.
22) China won 8 out of 12 possible medals in table tennis and 7 of 8 possible golds in diving.
23) Great Britain won 7 of 10 golds in track cycling and won 12 medals overall. The rest of the world earned 18 medals in the sport.
24) National gold-medal sweeps: Basketball (USA), Beach Volleyball (USA), Rhythmic Gymnastics (RUS), Synchronized Swimming (RUS), Table Tennis (CHN) and Trampoline (CHN).
25) Sweden had the best medal tally (4 silver, 1 bronze) without winning a gold.
26) Armenia won 6 bronze medals, but no gold or silver ones.
27) Speaking of former Soviet states, members of the former Soviet Union won a total of 173 medals in Beijing.
28) In 1992, Cuba finished 5th in the gold medal count. In 2008, the nation finished 28th.
29) From 1980 to 2008, Jamaica won three Olympic golds. In a span of six days in Beijing, Usain Bolt won three.
30) Sweden was a fixture in the top-three of the overall medal count for the early part of the 20th century. In Beijing, the Scandinavian country finished 38th and was shut-out in golds for just the second time in history.
31) Panama and Mongolia won the first gold medals in their respective histories.
32) China won 27 gold medals in judged sports.
33) The United States won 4 gold medals in judged sports.
34) China’s “real” medal tally was 24/17/14/55.
35) The “real” medal tally for the United States: 32/31/27/80.
36) In all, 958 medals were handed out to athletes from 87 countries, the most medals and medal receipients in Olympic history.