American hegemony

The United States’ great run began at the inaugural Olympic Games itself, in 1896 in Athens, where it won 11 gold medals to edge out host Greece, which had 10. The US claimed 20 medals in all in Athens. And by the time the curtains came down on the 27th edition of the Summer Olympics in London, the US had taken its tally to 2399 medals, including 976 gold.

The U.S. contingent at the 2012 London Olympics.   -  Getty Images

In Beijing, in 2008, host China finished on top of the medals table, dethroning the United States. That was quite an achievement, as the Americans had topped the table in the four previous Olympics in a row.

China had triumphed in style, winning 51 gold medals, 15 more than the United States. Yet, the Americans won more medals in Beijing overall — they took 110, while the Chinese claimed 100.

The United States, indeed, is the most successful overall champion in the history of the Olympic Games. Its great run had begun at the inaugural Games itself, in 1896 in Athens. The nation had won 11 gold medals to edge out host Greece, which had 10. The United States claimed 20 medals in all, in the first Games. By the time the curtains came down on the 27th edition of the Summer Olympics in London, the United States had taken its tally to 2399 medals, including 976 gold.

In the second spot in the medals tally across Olympics is the Soviet Union, a country that no longer exists, as it dissolved into several independent nations in late 1991. In the nine Olympics that the Soviet Union took part in, between 1952 and 1988, it won 1010 medals, of which 395 were gold.

Russia, which was part of the Soviet Union before the dissolution, has won 396 medals, including 133 gold, from five Olympics. It is ranked No. 12 in the list of top medal-winning countries, right below Australia (138 gold, 468 medals).

The top 10 countries, besides the United States and the Soviet Union, are Great Britain, France, China, Italy, Germany, Hungary, East Germany and Sweden.

India is ranked No. 51 with 26 medals, including nine gold.