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The Olympics represent the pinnacle of athletic achievement, where the world’s best athletes overcome rigorous training and adversity to excel on a global stage.

Over 5 billion people tune in to watch the Olympics on TV and social media, supporting athletes who represent their countries, teammates, and families.

But how hard is it to make it to the Olympic Games? And what are the realistic chances of standing on the podium? Find out in our new video!

The Numbers Game

First, let’s understand the scale of the Olympics. In the 2016 Rio Olympics, 11,000 athletes from 200 countries competed in 306 events across 26 sports. The Winter Olympics, held every two years like the Summer Games, featured 2,900 athletes from 96 countries competing in 102 events across 15 sports.

In a four-year Olympic cycle (an Olympic quad), approximately 14,000 athletes from over 200 countries participate in the Games. Considering the global population of 8.1 billion people, the probability of becoming an Olympian is staggeringly small.

Only about 0.0000017% of the world’s population, or 1 in 500,000 people, will make it to the Olympics.

Breaking Down the Odds

Different sports have varying levels of difficulty for making the Olympic team. For instance, in track and field, up to three individual athletes per event can represent their country. In swimming, the top two athletes from each event qualify. The upcoming Paris 2024 Olympics will see 1,810 athletes in track and field and 852 swimmers competing.

Taking the United States as an example, with its population of 340 million, about 340,000 members are part of USA Swimming. Only 0.5% of these members, or 1 in 200, will qualify for the US Olympic Team Trials in swimming. Of those who qualify for the Trials, only 52 swimmers (26 men and 26 women) will make the Olympic team, meaning just 3% of those at the Trials will compete in the Olympics. This makes the odds of making the US Olympic swimming team roughly 1 in 15 million.

Medal Chances

Even after reaching the Olympics, winning a medal is another Herculean task. In swimming, there are 37 events, with three medals each, totaling 111 medals. With 852 swimmers competing, theoretically, 13% could win a medal. However, due to multiple medals won by top athletes like Michael Phelps, the actual probability is closer to 5%.

Country Size Matters

The size of your country significantly affects your chances. For instance, in Australia (population 26 million), the odds of making the Olympic swimming team are 1 in 500,000. In China, with its 1.4 billion people, the chances are 1 in 275 million. Larger countries have more internal competition, making it harder for athletes to qualify.

The Chilly GOAT Cold Tub and Michael Phelps

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The journey to becoming an Olympian is a rare and arduous path, marked by intense competition and long odds. However, for those who make it, the rewards and the honor of representing one’s country on the world stage are unparalleled.

Whether you’re an aspiring athlete or a sports enthusiast, understanding these odds highlights the incredible achievements of those who reach the Olympics and reminds us of the dedication required to pursue such lofty dreams.

What are you most excited about for Paris 2024? Tell us in the comments!

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