Just 10 countries — the United States, Australia and eight European nations — earned medals in the first modern Games, in Athens in More than years later, in Rio, there were 87 medal-winning nations , from Algeria to Vietnam. It is also a snapshot of modern history: The world pauses for war; countries rise, fall and acquire new names; the United States and the Soviet Union grow in strength during the Cold War; China emerges as a global player. But the totals mask interesting patterns in individual events, where the medal counts mostly reflect more concentrated efforts from fewer nations.
Cold War rivalries split the Olympics in Moscow in 1980
Olympic champ Roman Vlasov dominates Individual World Cup
At six of its nine appearances at the Summer sports , the Soviet team ranked top place in the total number of gold medals won, it was second place by this count on the other three, which became the biggest contender to United States domination in Summer Games. Similarly, the team was ranked first in the gold medal count seven times and second twice in nine appearances at the Winter Olympic Games. Soviet Union's success might be attributed to a heavy state's investment in sports to fulfill its political agenda on an international stage. Following the Russian Revolution of November and the Russian Civil War — , the Soviet Union did not participate in international sporting events on ideological grounds;  however, after World War II — , dominating the Olympic Games came to be seen by Soviet officials and leaders as a useful method of promoting communism. On July 20, Nina Romashkova won the first Olympic gold medal in the history of Soviet sport, competing in the women's discus throw. Romashkova's result in this event There Lyubov Kozyreva won the first Winter Olympic gold medal in the history of Soviet sport, competing in the women's cross-country skiing 10 km event.
The 1952 Olympic Games, the US, and the USSR
Here are some of the highlights of the Olympics in Moscow. In that rivalry split the Olympics altogether. President Jimmy Carter, facing re-election, pushed for the U. As the Soviets won medal after medal in Moscow, U. The boycott came just months after the U.
Nations at the Summer Olympics. Source: Wikimedia. The relationship between politics and international sport is fraught with tension and drama: the same qualities that make for the most riveting athletic contests. The Olympics are no stranger to this dynamic, as the Games have long enabled global superpowers to enact their political and ideological conflicts in sport.