Cuba has 2x the Brazilian Olympics medal count? Really?

Fernanda Rodrigues and Jaqueline Carvalho from Brazil with gold medal

Like all good Olympics fans, at Kazi we have been digging through past data to get our bearings on the upcoming Games. It was of little surprise to us that the United States leads by a wide margin in the all-time medal count. It should; it is the world’s largest economy and has plenty of resources to provide the best and most complete training for its athletes. Further, the economic strength means there is significantly less malnourishment and physiological stress.

However, it is interesting that Russia/Soviet Union have averaged more Olympic medals per game edition than the United States. While the eastern European entity has averaged 123 medals in the 14 Games it has participated in, the United States has averaged just 103 in its 26 Games. There are probably a few good reasons for this; not least among them that the number of sports at the Olympics has been rising. Immediately following WWII, there were roughly 17-20 sports at the Games but in Rio there will be 28.

Nevertheless, we are sure that the Russian propaganda machine will be out in force, using this blog as a cornerstone for its national pride. (Kazi is just that important to them, we think, especially since we correctly predicted that the proposed Russian-Rio exclusion would come to nought. Yes, we are becoming a bit of a Nostradamus, in our time, especially when we are proven right about next year’s Golden State Warriors.)

But perhaps the biggest surprise out of the data that we saw, and something that no one will be very fond of talking about is the stunning lack of success Brazilian athletes have enjoyed at the Games. The country has earned just 108 medals in 21 appearances, fewer than even an independent Ukraine – a company that has participated in just 5 editions!

Brazil is a large country; its population of ~200 million is more than four times that of Ukraine’s. Little Cuba has participated in fewer games and has double the medal count! Yes, Cuba’s total is a whopping 209. And for those of you who will say that South American teams have needed to travel and it’s tougher for them, I would note that Argentina has 70 medals. It is a smaller total but for a country with a population of 45 million, still a much better ratio than Brazil – 70% of the medal count with 25% of the population.

So why is Brazil so bad when it comes to the Olympics? Is it just because they are so much more focused on soccer and so much less focused on the track and field events where countries can really rack up the medals? Maybe…but wouldn’t the same hold true for Argentina?

We think we have found the answer: samba is not yet an Olympic sport. It must be a conspiracy because the International Olympic Committee (IOC) surely knows that as soon as it becomes a sanctioned event, Brazil will be on the up and up. So watch out USA. And watch out Russia. increase that medal gap while you still can.

Enjoy the Games!


(image credit:


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