In the Olympic Games, professional athletes representing their nations compete regardless of economic, political and cultural differences. In this study, we apply gravity model to observe characteristics, represented by ‘distances’ among nations that directly compete against one another in the Summer Olympics. We use dyadic data consisting of medal winning nations in the Olympic Games from 1952 to 2016. To compare how the dynamics changed during and after the Cold War period, we partitioned our data into two time periods (1952–1988 and 1992–2016). Our research is distinguishable from previous studies in that we newly introduce application of gravity model in observing the dynamics of the Olympic Games. Our results show that for the entire study period, countries that engaged each other in competition in the finals of an Olympic event tend to be similar in economic size. After the Cold War, country pairs that compete more frequently tend to be similar in genetic origin.