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Medal progression of the most successful countries at the Summer Olympics 1896-2016

In the history of the Summer Olympics, the United States has generally been the most successful nation in each year, appearing at the top of the overall medal table on fifteen occasions, second place on eleven occasions and third on just one occasion. Between 1952 and 1992, athletes from the Soviet Union (and Unified Team of 1992) topped the overall medal table on eight occasions, while finishing second in the other two. German teams also performed well, with the East German team of the 1970s and 1980s achieving the most success. France and Great Britain have been represented at all Summer Olympic Games, and have generally been in the top ten or fifteen nations at each Games, with Great Britain achieving renewed success in the past three tournaments. China, which has only competed regularly since 1984 (abstaining due to political disputes with Taiwan), have grown to become one of the most successful Olympic nations of all time in a period of 32 years. In this time, China has won a total of 546 medals, has finished second in the medal tables in the three most recent tournaments, and are now fourth on the all time gold medal list.

Total number of medals won by athletes from the Summer Olympics' most successful countries from 1896 to 2016

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Release date




Survey time period

1896 to 2016

Supplementary notes

This data was collected using the official site, as well as a spreadsheet from the Guardian that includes data from 1896-2008 (available here), 2012 and 2016 data was compared with that from Encyclopaedia Britannica, and several news outlets were used to update the table when medals were reassigned (i.e. for doping offenses).

If the number zero is shown for a country, that means athletes from the country did participate, but did not win any medals. If there is no entry for a country in specific years, then they did not participate in those Olympics.

*This includes the Russian Empire (1900-1912), Soviet Union (1952-1988), Unified Team of 1992 (i.e. all athletes from former Soviet countries, excluding the Baltic states), and the Russian Federation (1996-2016).

**This includes the United Team of Germany (where East and West Germany competed together) from 1956 to 1964.

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Statistics on "History of the Summer Olympics"

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