What if Classical Music had Winter Olympics?

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In the opening ceremonies at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russian musolympic ringsic was featured prominently, by composers including Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky and Borodin. Host countries logically focus the world’s spotlight on their unique musical heritage.

Once the Winter Games began, the slopes, trails and ice rinks around Sochi featured world-class athletes competing in 98 different events, a 44% increase in number of events since the 1998 Nagano games and up 72% since Albertville in 1992. A recent New York Times article described this proliferation, citing new events like team luge and slopestyle skiing.

In the spirit of expanding Olympic competition, and inspired by the juxtaposition of classical music and nationalism, we wonder: What if classical music had its own Winter Olympics? What countries would come out on top? And is there a correlation between athletic and musical achievement?

Since the Sochi games are still underway, its final medal count is a moving target. Instead we’ll look back at Vancouver 2010 medal results:


To measure musical achievement, we’ll consider a composer’s nationality and the frequency his music was performed during the same year: 2010. For this information, we’re indebted to the website bachtrack.com, which compiles information from event promoters worldwide. Bachtrack ranks composers both by the most concerts (at least one work performed) and by the number of works performed. We’ll choose the latter:


(Bachtrack noted that Schumann, Mahler and Chopin all had significant anniversaries during 2010, which helped increase performances.)

Both Germany and Austria have a high correlation between Winter Olympic success and classical music popularity. In medals, the two countries combined to capture nearly one fourth of the total medals won by the Top 10 countries. In music, their composers also dominated – occupying 70% of the Top 10 spots.

And while 2010 was the most successful Winter Games in Polish history by medal count, Chopin’s homeland still finished 14th.

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