Russia and Japan shine in Sports Political Power Index


Photo: Vladimir Putin meets with Shinzo Abe at the opening of the 2014 Olympics.


By Luca Arfini
While the US is still on top of a newly published ‘sports political power index’, it has lost ground compared to the two previous indexes. Countries outside the Western hemisphere like Russia, Japan and Argentina keep improving their positions.

The US is the most dominant country when it comes to sports political power, says a newly released index measuring the political powers of countries worldwide. According to “The sports political power index”, released last month by the National Olympic Committee and Sports Confederation of Denmark (NOC Denmark), this position is threatened by Eastern countries like Russia and emerging states Japan and Argentina that keep on increasing their points in the international power ranking.

The index provides an overview on the political position that the different countries occupy in the field of sport in the global context. The US’ top score is 289 points which is 229 points higher than South Africa, which occupies the last position of the ranking with only 60 points.

Despite the recent political agitations regarding the doping scandal at the Rio Olympics 2016, Russia gained +5 points in respect to 2015 and +3 points in respect to 2013. Meanwhile in Asia, Japan raised an extraordinarily +20 points compared to 2015, moving up five positions in the international scale. This is an interesting result, especially because of the proximity of Tokyo 2020 that, as it is stated in the report, will be a great opportunity for Japan to use its greater influence in the major decisions related to the Olympic Games. In fact, after Columbia, Japan is the second country who scored the highest increase since 2013.

European decline
In the European arena, the top five countries are the same of the previous indexes: Italy, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. However, among them, only Russia gained more points than in the previous reports and raised in the scale, while the other four countries have all faced a great decline in terms of points. The presented image is the one of an impairment of the traditionally powerful Western European countries and improvement of the former Eastern Bloc countries, which have substantially increased their score. Indeed, the largest percentage in growth was scored by Montenegro with +433%, Georgia with +400% and Belarus with +143%.

“In Europe the balance of power is slowly moving from Western Europe to Central and Eastern Europe, as evidenced by the fact that 11 out of the 18 European countries that have increased their score are former Eastern Bloc countries,” it is written in the report. The results clearly show changes in the balance of sports political power between nations, such as an increasing importance of emerging countries at the expenses of the traditional Western states.

Secretary generals
A new feature of this report in comparison with the former ones is the inclusion of information regarding the nationality of secretary generals in international federations, who occupy a central position in those organisations. As it is stated in the index, the English-speaking countries dominate the post of secretary general with 22 out of 79 posts and it is considered an advantage having English, French or German as a first language. For instance, even if Italy occupies the second position of the international index, it has only one secretary general, five less than Germany that places itself sixth in the international ranking. Indeed, according to the EF English Proficiency Index, Italy has only a moderate proficiency occupying the place 33 out of 80 in the global arena.

In order to create the most realistic picture as possible, the countries´ position in international sports politics is based on their role in 118 associations and organisations. The methodology used in the index to measure the international influence of countries is the same used in its two previous reports of 2015 and 2013, to allow the comparison between the different situations and to draw some long-term considerations on the findings.

The aim of NOC Denmark, as it emerges from their International Strategy document, is to strengthen their responsibility at global level to be able to play a meaningful role in the discussion on international influence and democracy in sports. Their intention is also to recognize the most powerful countries with whom it would be advantageous to form an alliance. 

More Information

Find the Sport Political Power Index 2015-2017 here.
Find the Sport Political Power Index 2013-2015 here.
Find the Sport Political Power Index 2013 here.
Find the International Strategy document of  NOC Denmark here.



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