The Summer Olympics, where more than 5,000 gold medals have been dished out since 1896, are a captivating assembly of Davids and Goliaths, successes and fiascos, euphoria and disappointment.
While much of the sporting extravaganza's beauty lies in its unpredictable confrontations and idiosyncratic surprises, some participants have such a commanding position in certain Olympic sports that the highest honor in those disciplines can be all but a foregone conclusion before the competition has even begun.
How did "monopolies" emerge at the Games? Which countries or regions have been the most dominant? Is it possible for an Olympic minnow to clinch a large haul of golds?
CGTN visualized all the gold medals awarded to athletes at past Summer Olympics.
Note: Only medals in sports that are still on the current Olympic program were tallied.
This graphic maps all Olympic sports according to the number of gold medals given out and the number of countries and regions that have won gold.
With most dots tightly clustered around the best fit line, it suggests gold medals have been consistently distributed among countries across most disciplines.
A couple of dots clearly above the line – indicating sports where medals have gone to a higher than average number of countries and regions – show that some Olympic disciplines, including football, taekwondo and triathlon, have thrived on their unpredictability.
Only eight countries have won the men's FIFA World Cup, but an utterly different scenario has played out at the Olympics, which has produced 22 winning countries in 26 Summer Games.
Brazil, which has a record five World Cup titles, only ended its long wait for Olympic gold after beating Germany on home soil at Rio 2016.
Taekwondo has proven to be a rich source of Olympic glory for South Korea for many years, with the country topping the overall medal table with 12 golds. But the competition has now been thrown wide open by the emergence of a host of rising forces, with China leading the pack.
Some sports, such as table tennis, basketball, synchronized swimming, beach volleyball, badminton, fencing and diving,
are dominated by a few giants who never accept second best.
For them, specialization is the rule, not the exception. If there's an Olympic table tennis final, chances are a Chinese athlete is in it. And a Brazilian has claimed a gold or silver medal at every Olympic beach volleyball event.
All of this leads to a compelling question as sports fans prepare to watch the world's finest athletes dazzle in the Japanese capital: Which countries or regions will flex their muscles in what Olympic sport?
While China is the undisputed champion in table tennis, racking up 28 of the 32 golds on offer, the U.S. has topped the rest of the world in basketball. Of the 30 possible golds in the event, the U.S. has won all but seven.
enjoyed similar superiority in badminton, with 18 out of 34 golds going to Chinese shuttlers.
It's worth noting that China is the only country ever to complete a clean sweep of medals in that sport at the Olympics, with its players powering to gold in all five events at London 2012.
Russia has demonstrated similar prowess in
artistic swimming (formerly known as synchronised swimming), clinching 10 of the 18 golds on offer in the sport.
Since the 2000 Sydney Games, Russia has won both the team and duet events at every Olympics, leaving the U.S., Canada, Japan and China far behind.
But there's no guarantee that Olympic dominance will last forever, and some events have witnessed a stunning shift in power in recent decades.
been the domain of the
U.S. for a long time, and nobody could stop the Americans from coming up on
top in the Olympics until 1984, when China made its presence felt in Los
Since then, Chinese divers have had a scintillating run of form that has seen them topple their U.S. rivals.
has traditionally had a strong association with three European leviathans.
Italy, France and Hungary account for more than half of the fencing golds awarded in Olympic history. But Russia has been a nation on the rise in the sport, winning medals at every Olympic Games since 1992.
By tracking the medal count of sporting powerhouses over the past century, one can chronicle the gripping history of the Games.
The patterns are clear: some classic Olympic events have turned into hunting grounds for a couple of titans. But there are still many sports where it remains remarkably difficult to tell who the favorites are.
Based on the current Olympic program of the Tokyo Games, we gathered all the relevant gold medal data since the inception of the modern Olympics in 1896.
In order to make the data distribution more obvious, we processed the coordinate axes of the scatter plot and drew a best fit line as an output of regression analysis. Then we conducted residual analysis to find the "outliers" – where the gold medals are in the hands of a relatively small number of countries. The "outliers" were highlighted on the scatter plot, and further analyzed in the second half of the project.
International Olympic Committee (Data as of June 2021)
Editors: Hu Zhicheng, Sim Sim Wissgott, John Goodrich.
Data Editors: Hu Xuechen, Shi Tao.
Data Analyst: Ou Yue.
Chief Editor: Chen Ran.
Visual Designer: Feng Yuan.
Interactive Designer: Li Yixiao.
Interactive Engineer: Zhu Sirui.
Product Manager: Hu Yiwei.
Project Coordinator: Li Jing.
Multimedia Producer: Xu Jiye.
Producer: Dang Zheng.
Executive Producers: Si Nan, Liu Yuqi.
Managing Director: Zhang Shilei.
Supervisors: Fan Yun, Ma Jing.
文字编辑：胡芝诚、Sim Sim Wissgott、John Goodrich