Which factors matter in sports?

Olympic Gold.jpg
Which factors have the greatest influence in a nation’s ability to achieve great sporting results?
Because we can’t resists a good ranking, we’ve analysed several well-known, reliable indicators, and matched the top 20 nations of the Global Cup 2014 with the top 20 nations in international rankings relating to economic, geographic and demographic factors.
The number of top twenty-matches, in terms of countries, between GSN and the rankings in question is given below, and paints an interesting picture:
R&D expenditure
National Power Index
Human Development Index
Democracy Index
Population and national area
The economic factors we looked at are Gross Domestic Product (nominal GDP) and the amount of money spent on Research & Development. For both of them, there is a high number of matches between top twenty nations and the top twenty nations in the Global Cup 2014. Fifteen matches with the GDP top twenty and sixteen matches with the R&D expenditure ranking.
The geographic factors we used for comparison are national area and population. Both factors’ lists of top twenty nations only have seven matches with the top twenty GSN nations, so they don’t seem to directly affect national performance in sports.
Other factors we examined are demographic indicators such as the Human Development Index (HDI), the Democracy Index (DI) and the National Power Index (NPI).
The HDI is used to measure human development and whether people are able to achieve desirable things in life. There are twelve matches in the list of top twenty HDI nations compared with the GSN top twenty. The DI, measuring the state of democracy worldwide features only ten matches in the list of top twenty nations.
Also revealing is the comparison with the National Power Index, which calculates the share of nations in global ‘power’. The analysis confirms that superpowers, not surprisingly, perform well in sports, since we have twelve matches between the NPI and  the GSN top twenty nations.
The only nation from the GSN Global Cup 2014 top twenty which is ranked in the top twenty in all the factors considered are…the United States, of course. Nations like Germany and Japan are also in the top twenty in most factors excepts for national area, while  Canada are only ranked outside the top twenty in population.
In conclusion, economic size, R&D investment and global influence seem to have a direct bearing on national sports performance. But wealth isn’t the only route to sporting success. As the table below shows, less influential but no less ‘virtuous’ countries, like for example Norway (15th in the 2014 Global Cup and currently 4th), show a strong  correlation between such ‘virtue’, as expressed by the DI and HDI, in which Norway was top in 2014, and sporting performance.
Norway has actually finished in the top five in the Per Capita Cup, which measures sporting performance relative to population, in the last seven years, proof of the fact that, in sports, big isn’t always mighty.
  Area GDP Pop. R&D inv. HDI  DI  NP
China 3 2 1 2 x x 2
Russia 1 9 9 9 x x 8
Great Britain x 6 x 7 14 16 6
France  x 5 20 6 20 x 7
Norway x x x x 1 1 x
X = outside of top 20