Norway crowned world’s sportiest nation in 2020

A. A. Kilde of Norway won the 2020 Alpine Skiing World Cup – pict. AP Photo/G. Auletta
Norway has improved on its own record by winning the Per Capita Cup – the ranking of the world’s sportiest nations – for the fourth year in succession.
And by finishing second in the Global Cup, the first time any country has recorded a podium finish in the same year in both GSN rankings. It is also the first time the Scandinavian country has managed to end the year in the top 10 in both rankings.
In this pandemic-stricken year, Norway’s performance was undoubtedly helped by the fact that the sporting calendar was hugely curtailed after March. In April-December, only 37% of 2020’s total GSN points were awarded, as opposed to 81.2% in 2019, and Norway only scored 5 GSN points (in Triathlon) during that time.
But the fact remains that Norway has built on and confirmed its recent achievements, brushing all competition aside in Snow & Ice sports and doing enough to stay ahead of Switzerland and Slovenia (the latter was Per Capita champion in 2014) to clinch the title by a considerable margin: in 2020, only 6,698 Norwegians were ‘needed’ to score one GSN point, while the figure was 15,141 inhabitants for Switzerland and 17,508 for Slovenia. Notably, four countries featured in the top-10 table in both the Per Capita and Global Cup this year, as Norway was joined by Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands.
The annual Per Capita ranking is obtained by dividing the population of any country with at least 10 top-eight placements in any GSN tournament by the country’s total GSN points earned in the year. In other words, it measures how sporty a nation is by calculating how many inhabitants are ‘needed’ to score one GSN point. The fewer the inhabitants needed, the sportier the nation.
Norway secured its 2020 Per Capita Cup triumph thanks to victories in the annual ranking for Biathlon, Cross-Country Skiing and Nordic Combined, and podium finishes in Alpine Skiing and Ski Jumping. Switzerland too relied heavily on Winter Sports, winning outright Alpine Skiing and finishing second in Freestyle Skiing. By contrast, third-placed Slovenia’s best sport was Road Cycling, followed by Biathlon and MTB.
This year’s Per Capita ranking featured two newcomers to the top-10, Latvia in seventh place and the Czech Republic in 10th, as well as the return among the world’s sportiest nations of Australia, whose last top-10 placement came in 2015.
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Greatest Sporting Nation is a ranking of countries based on their performance in top-level international tournaments in sports in which there is genuine global competition. Countries (national teams and/or individual athletes) score Qualifying Points by finishing in the top eight places in Qualifying Events.
These Qualifying Points are then weighted to produce GSN Points, based on a formula that takes into account individual vs team sports, the sport’s participation (number of countries) and the frequency (annual/biennial/quadrennial) of the tournaments.
The Country scoring the most Points in a calendar year wins the Global Cup for that year. The country that scores the most points relative to its population wins the Per Capita Cup. For a more detailed explanation, please refer to the ‘How It Works’ section on the site.