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An exclusive study carried out by Havas Sports & Entertainment, Havas Media’s global sports and entertainment communication network.

With the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games behind us, and the 2012 Games in London approaching ever-so quickly, this study gives a picture of where the main sport nations stand today.

The ranking takes into account all current podium athletes (first, second, and third place) in World Championship events in 53 sports and 153 disciplines—covering world class events such as the FIFA World Cup, all the way to sports which garner very little media attention.

Top Nations retain leading spots for fourth year in a row

The top three sports’ countries in the world, the United States, China and Russia, have been respectively first, second and third since 2006. Although their number of medals is diminishing, they are still far ahead of their pursuers, France and Germany. These two European powers come in 4th and 5th.France (5th with 82 gold medals) has jumped ahead of Italy (6th with 69 gold medals). The country’s success in winning 14 more medals than in 2009,sees it hot on the tails of Germany.

On another note, France has the lowest gold medal ratio of the top 10 with only 27% (43% for China, 36% Australia, 34% for the United States and Russia and 33% for Japan).

Vancouver Olympics propels Canada

The best climb in the rankings for a top 15 country goes to Canada, coming in at number 10. Indeed, as the host country of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, the Games had a very positive impact for the country, with 14 gold medals won, compared to only seven in 2006. Based on the IOC ranking, Canada was the top country at the 2010 Winter Olympics (compared to only 5th in 2006). The Vancouver Games were also golden for Norway and China, which, compared to Turin in 2006, entered the Top 10 of the Winter Olympic rankings. On the other side, Italy, Russia and France fell from the top ranks after mediocre performances in Vancouver.

Great Nations of Sport tracks Olympic trends looking towards 2012

With the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London just over 500 days away, a few trends appearing in the Ranking are worth a note. Over the past years the USA has been consistently losing gold medal count, and for the first time since 2006, China recorded a decrease in the number of gold medals won. This leaves a lot of room for question, and speculation on what will happen in 2012. The United Kingdom, on the other hand, seems to be gaining ground in preparation for their home-ground Games, garnering 25 Gold medals since 2007.

The Economy of Sport

As sport professionals we are not merely interested in the number of male or female athletes who made it to the podium. The Great Nations of Sport digs deeper; the ranking provides sport professionals with an interesting take on the economy of sport in individual countries. The two primary criteria we use is Medals per Capita to identify if countries have a high proportion of athletes, and Medals per GDP/Capita to discover if this high or low proportion is a result of the country’s investment in a sport culture.

Some highlights of our findings are detailed below.

In the Top 10 per capita we find two types of country profiles:

  • Countries with a population of less than 1 million inhabitants that have won at least one title.
  • Countries that have a larger population (between 2 and 10 million) that have won over 30 titles. In this group we can find Norway, Switzerland and Austria. These countries are mid-size but have a strong economy allowing them to compete at a high-level.

After the Top 10 we can also divide these countries into two categories, - those with a population between 10 and 100 million and those with a population over 100 million.

In the first category we find Australia (13th overall with 63 medals for 21 million inhabitants).

We can also see that the top three countries in terms of population (United States, China and Russia all have over 130 million inhabitants) are lower down in the ranking. Russia is 42nd (-9 places from 2009), the United States 46th (-8 places) and China is 77th (-8 places). This ranking allows us to highlight the fact that the number of titles is not proportional with population. Average size countries (2 to 10 million inhabitants) have a higher per capita ratio than larger nations. These nations use sports as a way to increase media exposure.

More detail on this types of analysis, as well as any custom analysis that you may require is available on demand.


For the sixth edition of this exclusive study, 52 different sports* encompassing 153 disciplines and 1,624 events have been screened. The ranking takes into account the gold, silver and bronze medals obtained by each nation in the following competitions: the last Olympic Games (summer and winter), the last world championships and, in some disciplines, the most recently published world rankings and most recent main events. Just as at the Olympics, the ranking is produced on the basis of the decreasing number of first places. Similarly, the principle of equality between sports is observed, with all gold medals having the same value, irrespective of the discipline.

*The 52 sports taken into account: Aerial Sports, American Football, Archery, Automotive, Badminton, Baseball, Basketball, Boxing, Canoe and Kayak, Climbing, Cycling, Deep Sea Diving, Equestrian, Fencing, Football, Golf, Gymnastics, Handball, Field Hockey, Ice Sports, Jet Ski, Judo, K1, Karate, Motorcycling, Orienteering, Parachuting, Pentathlon, Petanque, Roller skating, Rowing, Rugby, Sailing, Shooting, Ski, Snowboarding, Snowmobiling, Squash, Street Hockey, Surf, Swimming, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Tennis, Track & Field, Triathlon, Twirling, Volleyball, Wakeboarding, Water Ski, Weightlifting, Wrestling, and Wushu