There are things that might not seem like they're connected at first glance, but then those two things end up being closley linked. For example, you may be surprised to find out that there is a huge connection in the amount of gold medals a country wins and that country's GDP.
Countries Showing a Downtrend
One country that has shown a downtrend in the overall number of Olympic gold medals it wins compared to other nations is the U.S. The ratio of gold medals won by the U.S. has gradually decreased. The U.S. won 37% of the gold medals in 1984, but only 12% of available gold medals in 2008. As other nations are becoming economic superpowers, the U.S has a smaller portion of the worldwide GDP. The U.S. had 35% of the worldwide GDP back in 1985, but only 22% in 2012.
Looking at statistics from 1980 to 2010, Romania won 9% of the available gold medals in 1984. Around 1980, Romania had 0.72% of the worldwide GDP. That's when Romania peaked and its gold medal count and worldwide GDP have not reached levels that high since.
Italy is in a similar situation. Looking at the same statistics from 1980 to 2010, Italy's shares of gold medals won peaked in 1984 with over 6%. However, by 2008 Italy was only winning 2.6% of the available gold medals. As for Italy's share of the worldwide GDP, it's decreasing, too. Italy had 4.47% of the worldwide GDP in 1980, but only 2.41% in 2010.
Countries Showing an Uptrend
China's percentage of gold medals won is increasing, as is its share of the worldwide GDP. By 1984, China was winning 7% of available gold medals. By 2008, it was winning 17% of available gold medals. At the same time, China's share of worldwide GDP grew from 2% in 1985 to above 10% today.
In 2008, the 10 nations with the highest GDP, including China, U.S. and Russia, scooped up 59% of the Olympic gold medals. Out of the four BRIC countries, China and Russia consistently have high medal counts. Goldman Sachs recently published a report stating that economic conditions is one of the factors that helps predict Olympic success. There is speculation that countries with higher GDPs have more money and energy to invest in sports and athletes.
The Bottom Line
Just because a country has a high GDP, that doesn't necessarily mean it's going to earn the most gold medals in the Olympics. On the other hand, just because a country earns a lot of gold medals, that doesn't mean it's GDP will change. However, there's no denying there is some connection between the two. Countries like China have become more successful in both the Olympics and in the worldwide economy. The U.S is in an economic downturn and its share of gold medals won is decreasing.