What if the Olympic medal table was based on the number of medals won by regions, not by countries? We looked at the numbers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games while focusing on European regions, and on NUTS2 regions in particular (which do not cover countries like Kosovo or San Marino). A region in this case refers to the place of birth of the athlete, which we derived from Wikipedia (the information for about 5 percent of medalists competing for European delegations is still missing). Here you can find all the details about the procedure we adopted.
In total, people born in 227 different NUTS2 regions in Europe won at least one medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games. 142 regions did not win any medals – including all the regions of a few countries, as well as the capital regions of Austria and Finland. Based on the information currently available, 748 athletes born in European NUTS2 regions won 806 medals in Tokyo; they were born in over 500 different locations across Europe.
Ile-de-France, i.e. the region of Paris, comes first in the medal table both in terms of total medals and gold medals. This can be accredited to the success of its judokas and handball players in particular. Water polo gave Belgrade its second position in the medal table if we rank regions based on the number of athletes' gold medals. When narrowed to EU regions only, the second place goes to Antwerp (Belgium).
Looking at the total number of medals won, some of the most populous regions in Europe – Ile-de-France, Catalonia and Lombardy – make it to the top 5, along with the regions of Budapest and Belgrade. In relation to their population, other large regions such as Istanbul, Andalucia and Madrid performed quite poorly.
There are great disparities in the populations of NUTS2 regions. So it is probably fairer to take the population into account, and look at the number of medals won per million inhabitants. In this case, the regions coming out on top are Budapest, Guadeloupe (a French overseas region), Belgrade, and North Middle Sweden. Budapest brought home 16 medals per million inhabitants, largely thanks to water polo and canoeing. In terms of gold medals per capita, Guadeloupe, Brussels and Belgrade top the ranking, however.
And what if we take the regions' GDP into account? In terms of medals won in Tokyo relative to a region's GDP, no corner of continental Europe is as successful as the southeast and Balkans: of the top 20 regions, 18 are in Serbia, Hungary, Montenegro, Croatia, Bulgaria, Greece or Romania.
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