Marcos Brindicci/Reuters

If L.A. were a country, it would rank ninth in the world.

With incredible performances from athletes like Simone Biles, Katie Ledecky, and Ashton Eaton, Team USA came away from the Rio Games with a haul of 121 total medals including 46 gold, 37 silver, and 38 bronze.

But which U.S. cities were the big winners?

To get at this, Patrick Adler, my Martin Prosperity Institute (MPI) colleague and urban planning doctoral candidate at UCLA, parsed the data on the number that can be attributed to the U.S. metropolitan areas where Olympic athletes currently live. He also compared these metro totals to a number of other countries. My MPI colleague Taylor Blake mapped the data.

Taylor Blake

The first map shows the medal totals for U.S. metros. Los Angeles leads with a whopping 28 medals. This would put it among the 10 leading nations in the world, tied with Italy (which ranked 9th in the world) and ahead of Canada’s 22 medals and South Korea’s 21 medals.

San Francisco is next with 19 medals. If the Bay Area were a country it would be tied with Brazil and the Netherlands. New York is third with 16 medals, which would put it between Spain’s 17 medals and Denmark’s 15 medals.

Baltimore came away with 10 medals, six of which belong to Michael Phelps, as did San Diego. Miami took home nine; Dallas eight; and tiny Colorado Springs, home to the U.S. Olympic Complex, seven. Five metros—Chicago, Boston, Portland, Houston (boosted by gymnast Simone Biles’ five medals)—Washington, D.C. (with Katie Ledecky’s five medals) took home six medals each.

In total, California accounts for 57 medals. This is nearly half (47 percent) of all U.S. medals and equivalent to the fourth largest national total in the world, behind only the United States, China, and Great Britain. The Boston-New York-Washington-Corridor accounts for another 40 medals, a third of the U.S. total and equivalent to the seventh best nation in the world.

Taylor Blake

But larger metros will of course produce more athletes. So it is useful to look at medals won by metros on a per capita basis. The second map charts the medals per 100,000 for U.S. metros.

Now tiny Danville, Illinois, rises to the top with 4.9 medals per 100,000 people, based on Dana Vollmer’s three medals in swimming.

College towns that are home to Olympic athletes also do well. Bloomington, Indiana, home to the University of Indiana, takes second place with 2.4 medals per 100,000 people. Gainesville, Florida, home to the University of Florida, is third with 1.5 medals per 100,000 people, followed by Colorado Springs with 1.1 medals and its major Olympic training center.

Rounding out the top ten are: Charlottesville, Virginia (University of Virginia) 1.04 medals; Boulder, Colorado (University of Colorado) 1.01 medals; Lafayette, Indiana (Purdue) .78 medals; Santa Barbara, California (University of California at Santa Barbara) .68 medals; Bend, Oregon (Oregon State University) and Trenton, New Jersey (Princeton) with .538 medals per 100,000 people.

Large metros fall further down the list. L.A. is 25th, New York 45th, San Francisco 14th, Baltimore 17th, San Diego 19th, Miami 30th, Dallas 35th and D.C. 38th.

When all is said and done, America’s Olympic athletes cluster in large metros around both Olympic and college training facilities. This mirrors the clustering of talent seen in so many other dimensions of our economy and society today.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Design

    Is This Red, White, and Blue Elephant Worth Saving?

    Illinois politicians agree that Chicago’s Thompson Center should be replaced. Architects and preservationists beg to differ, and a new documentary presents their case.

  2. A Soviet map of London, labeled in Russian.

    The Soviet Military Secretly Mapped the Entire World

    These intricate, curious maps were supposed to be destroyed. The ones that remain reveal a fascinating portrait of how the U.S.S.R. monitored the world.

  3. Maps

    Mapping Where Europe's Population Is Moving, Aging, and Finding Work

    Younger people are fleeing rural areas, migrating northward, and having fewer children. Here’s how that’s changing the region.

  4. Life

    Venice Mayor to Tourists: Stop Whining and Pay Up

    British visitors were overcharged for lunch, the U.K. press pounced, and now everyone is mad.

  5. A toxic site in Niagara Falls, New York, seen from above.

    The Toxic 'Blank Spots' of Niagara Falls

    The region’s “chemical genies” of the early 20th century were heralded as reaching into the future to create a more abundant life for all. Instead, they deprived future generations of their health and well-being.