It is just not financial resources which helps Norway top the Winter Olympics Medal tally. There are many other factors
Norway has won the most medals in the 2022 Winter Olympics. This isn’t a one-off. In 2002, Norway has only finished outside the top four once since 1992. In 2018, Norway took first place. That small Scandinavian nation continues to outperform much larger opponents.
Of course, the weather matters. A lot happens even though it is the Winter Olympics. Norway, with an average annual temperature of 36°F, is ranked fifth by the World Bank (two degrees Celsius). The number of gold medals won correlates with the temperature at the time.
It’s not just the weather. Sweden, Austria, and Switzerland have this advantage in addition to larger populations and talent pools. Due to politics, economics, and population, China, the US, and Russia must always produce powerful Olympic teams. Norway, on the other hand, places great importance on early childhood participation in winter sports.
Norway’s most popular televised sports are cross-country skiing and biathlon, with over 10,000 local sports groups. In 2018, 93% of kids regularly participated in winter sports.
Many people may identify with a unique Norwegian guideline for youth sports. Until the age of 13, organised youth sports teams in Norway are prohibited from keeping score. Children are left to their own devices, where they can play, develop, and focus on their social skills. From athletics, they can learn a lot. Playing is a great way for children to learn. They gain a great deal by avoiding stress. Because they aren’t counted, they learn more from it. They gain a great deal from the absence of criticism. And they’re happier as a result. These people are also more likely to stay on.
And as they become older, there is a big active talent pool for elite athletic training.
Quite the contrary is true in many other countries, though. Participation in national competitions is a requirement for children, and winners are crowned.
Norway’s performance at the Winter Olympics is not fairly distributed among the many sports. Cross-country skiing, ski jumping, and the Nordic combined are where the Chinese have won the most gold medals, with 12 of their 14 in Beijing coming from those three sports plus biathlon. Since 1936, they haven’t taken home any bobsleigh, luge, or skeleton medals, and they haven’t won any figure skating gold medals either.
After only one gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics, Great Britain’s quest for medals began. Since the 1990s, funding has gone to sports with a high chance of earning medals, and lottery money has poured in. Norway’s total Olympic budget is one-tenth that of the UK, therefore this is alien to them.
Because it is prohibitively expensive, the Norwegians do not participate in skeleton or bobsleigh. They live in a wealthy country, but they adhere to socialist principles. Working hard and sticking together should be the key to achieving this level of achievement.
Norway has other sports development quirks. Coaches keep athletes’ weight hidden. The fear is that people may develop eating disorders. The federations do not reward or incentivize their athletes. People can change if they win a lot of money.
Norway, too, is looking for high-character players. The team’s friendship is so strong that there is little place for self-importance.
It is not as if the money aspect is not there, it’s also money.
Consider preparing for an event like the Olympics. It’s rare for equipment to be cheap. Kids often rely on their parents to attend such events. Preparing for the Olympics requires building the required infrastructure. For example, the biathlon team used a wind machine to practise since they knew that Beijing will have a left-to-right wind.
With an economy that ranks 35th in the world and a GDP per capita that is ranked 10th, Norway is an economically well-off country.
The GDP, on the other hand, does not include all forms of wealth. This is the purpose of the UN’s Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index, which accounts for factors such as educational attainment, longevity, and income disparities.
A country could hypothetically create more athletes if more people had access to the funds required to compete. Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski initially mentioned this in “Soccernomics.”
Kuper and Szymanski employed sociological and psychological methodologies to examine international soccer and sport. After that, in “The Curse of Poverty,” they ranked various countries’ ranks in prominent international sports like baseball, soccer, and Formula 1. Each of their top five countries—the US, Russia/USSR/Kremlin, UK, Germany, and France—had at least 65 million inhabitants. Norway, on the other hand, swept the board when it came to sports per capita.
“The main thing the top of our rankings demonstrates is wealth,” they concluded.
“Our rankings show wealth,” they concluded. Richer countries create better athletes for a variety of reasons, including government and corporate support in sports, leisure time, and childhood nutrition (healthier kids grow up to be bigger adults).
Norway’s wealth benefits a large number of people due to its low degree of economic inequality, unlike other wealthy but stratified cultures like the Gulf. Among these are national sports and fitness efforts to enhance health.
Sport is open to all Norwegian citizens, regardless of where they live. Even in the most distant areas of the country, there is usually one playing arena within walking distance. Most locker rooms are warm, and coaches have acquired credentials in their specialities. For less than $150 a year, a youngster can join a professional team and train year-round.
Aside from the obvious benefits to general health and wellness, such a programme makes sense from a sporting perspective. Wealth, on the other hand, gives an edge in winter sports.
Summer athletes benefit from pricey training and preparation, but basketball and soccer equipment are inexpensive. A track-only requires a level piece of land. Many of the Winter Olympics’ sports require expensive equipment or, more importantly, specialised facilities that are only found in a few places worldwide. Six of Germany’s 24 medals so far have come from luge, and the Germans won gold in the single bobsled event fought so far, the men’s two-man, in part because they have more world-class tracks than any other country on the planet. There are 72 speed skating rinks in Norway. The Netherlands possesses 44 speed skating ovals, which helped the country win 23 out of a potential 32 medals in Sochi and 13 out of a possible 27 thus far in Pyeongchang. More than 14 times larger than Norway and the Netherlands combined, the United States has barely 10 people.
In addition, infrastructure is just one of the factors. Norway’s greatest athletes participate in sports that allow them to win several medals, making the most of the country’s small population.
It’s not because he was a better swimmer than, say, Sachin Tendulkar in cricket that Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympic athlete ever. It’s because Phelps had a unique skill set that allowed him to compete in eight separate events at the same Olympics
Three of the most decorated Winter Olympians in history hail from Norway: cross-country skier Bjorn Daehlie, biathlonist Ole Einar Bjoerndalen. Individual events and at least one relay allowed each of them to earn several Olympic medals in their respective sports.
To sum up: culture, psychology, planning, policies and money are all intertwined.