Jul 23, 2021 - Sports

Olympic winners, over time

Data: Axios Research and International Olympic Committee; Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios

When the Summer Olympics debuted in 1896, 14 nations participated in the 42-competition event.

Why it matters: Those numbers have risen steadily over time, with the U.S. dominating the Games as the Olympics expanded. Now, there are 339 events with 206 nations competing.

  • Wealthier countries with more resources have usually taken the most gold. The Soviet Union was the only rival that came close to the U.S. record in the latter part of the 20th century.
  • China has recently gained ground, a reflection of the country's rapid economic growth.

Of note: The U.S. has placed in the top three in every Olympics except one, in 1980, when the U.S. boycotted the Olympics after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan.

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