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WHICH IS THE BEST SPORTS COUNTRY IN THE WORLD?
April 23, 1962
The U.S.? Russia? It depends on how and what you count, but this year will be the biggest one ever
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April 23, 1962

Which Is The Best Sports Country In The World?

The U.S.? Russia? It depends on how and what you count, but this year will be the biggest one ever

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SPORT

WORLD'S BEST

ARCHERY

1 U.S.
2 BELGIUM
3 FINLAND

AUTO RACING

1 ITALY
2 GREAT BRITAIN
3 GERMANY

BADMINTON

1 INDONESIA
2 THAILAND
3 DENMARK

BASEBALL

1 U.S.
2 JAPAN
3 PUERTO RICO

BASKETBALL

1 U.S.
2 U.S.S.R.
3 BRAZIL

BOBSLEDDING

1 ITALY
2 GERMANY
3 U.S.

BOXING

1 U.S.
2 ARGENTINA
3 GREAT BRITAIN

CANOEING

1 RUMANIA
2 U.S.S.R.
3 HUNGARY

CHESS

1 U.S.S.R.
2 U.S.
3 YUGOSLAVIA

CRICKET

1 AUSTRALIA
2 GREAT BRITAIN
3 WEST INDIES

CYCLING

1 BELGIUM
2 ITALY
3 FRANCE

EQUESTRIAN

1 ITALY
2 GERMANY
3 U.S.

FENCING

1 U.S.S.R.
2 POLAND
3 FRANCE

FIGURE SKATING

1 CANADA
2 CZECHOSLOVAKIA
3 GERMANY

FIELD HOCKEY

1 PAKISTAN
2 INDIA
3 GREAT BRITAIN

FOOTBALL

1 U.S.
2 CANADA

GOLF

1 U.S.
2 AUSTRALIA
3 GREAT BRITAIN

GYMNASTICS

1 U.S.S.R.
2 JAPAN
3 CZECHOSLOVAKIA

HARNESS RACING

1 U.S.
2 FRANCE
3 ITALY

HORSE RACING

1 U.S.
2 FRANCE
3 GREAT BRITAIN

ICE HOCKEY

1 CANADA
2 U.S.S.R.
3 CZECHOSLOVAKIA

JUDO

1 JAPAN
2 KOREA(SOUTH)
3 U.S.S.R.

MODERN PENTATHLON

1 U.S.S.R.
2 HUNGARY
3 U.S.

MOTORCYCLE RACING

1 GREAT BRITAIN
2 SOUTHERN RHODESIA
3 AUSTRALIA

PARACHUTE JUMPING

1 U.S.
2 U.S.S.R.
3 FRANCE

ROWING

1 U.S.S.R.
2 GERMANY
3 ITALY

RUGBY

1 SOUTH AFRICA
2 FRANCE
3 NEW ZEALAND

SHOOTING

1 U.S.S.R.
2 GERMANY
3 U.S.

SKIING

1 AUSTRIA
2 SWEDEN
3 GERMANY

SPEED SKATING

1 U.S.S.R.
2 NETHERLANDS
3 SWEDEN

SOCCER

1 BRAZIL
2 GERMANY
3 GREAT BRITAIN

SWIMMING

1 U.S.
2 JAPAN
3 AUSTRALIA

TABLE TENNIS

1 CHINA (RED)
2 JAPAN
3 HUNGARY

TENNIS

1 AUSTRALIA
2 U.S.
3 ITALY

TRACK & FIELD

1 U.S.
2 U.S.S.R.
3 NEW ZEALAND

VOLLEYBALL

1 U.S.S.R.
2 POLAND
3 CZECHOSLOVAKIA

WATER POLO

1 HUNGARY
2 ITALY
3 U.S.S.R.

WEIGHT LIFTING

1 U.S.S.R.
2 POLAND
3 U.S.

WRESTLING

1 U.S.S.R.
2 TURKEY
3 IRAN

YACHTING

1 DENMARK
2 U.S.
3 GREAT BRITAIN

As a concentrated glorification of sport, nothing can jostle that embroidered sampler, the Olympic Games. But in 1962, halfway between the last Olympics and the next, the world will accumulate an unmatchable wealth of sporting performances. Before this entr'acte is done, no less than 25,000 athletes from nearly every nation on earth will meet on international terms to test one another in everything from jumping out of an airplane above Orange, Mass. to leaping a hurdle in Jakarta, Indonesia or sinking a basketball in Manila. And, as a rule, every time someone from one country faces someone from another, world supremacy or international prestige or both will be at stake.

How the several nations engaged are likely to wind up at year's end in 40 major sports (twice the number contested in the summer and winter Olympics) is shown in the chart below. Prepared by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, the chart assigns standings and points (five for first place, three for second, one for third) on the basis of the best available facts—and hunches. Admittedly, some of the sports listed are parochial in their scope—e.g., football in the U.S., cricket in the British Commonwealth—but the picture the chart gives is still an accurate measure of the athletic interest and proficiency of the 35 nations prominently involved. Whether a man agrees with its conclusions may depend on his point of view. And his homeland.

Ten years ago a chart like this would have been half the size; that was before Soviet athletes emerged into sports competition at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and taught a new lesson to Western politicians: athletic superiority is one of the cheapest—and most effective—propaganda tools available. If a Moscow boy can whip a Boston boy at the high jump, the whole world, rightly or wrongly, sees in it more than sporting significance.

Quick to catch on to the techniques of playing at worldwide cold war (and quick to get busy to avoid being skunked by the Russians), the free world has accordingly adopted a new attitude toward excellence in world sport. It translates: "Beat the Reds."

As the chart shows, gloomily, the Reds don't beat easy. With no international standing whatsoever in 1951, Soviet athletes today figure in the top ranks of half of the world's games, and are in second place in this overall accounting. They are even learning—by energetic design—to beat the West where the West is best: in basketball, crew and ice hockey. But the figures also prove that, for the present anyway, there is still no athlete like a U.S. athlete.

MAN FOR MAN, IT'S AUSTRALIA

With a total of 69 points to Russia's 67 (see below), the U.S. just barely wins the race for headline space. But though both nations outstrip their closest rivals, Italy and Germany, almost three to one, their high ranking is deceptive. Both countries, culturally oriented toward sport, are able to draw upon vast resources of manpower. Thus it is not surprising that both are able to find someone someplace who can honorably represent his country abroad.

But, looked at another way, the best sports nation in the world ought to be the one able to do the most with what there is to work with. The winner on these man-to-man conditions is Australia. With a population less than that of Pennsylvania, Australia leads or challenges the leaders in five of the 40 sports listed on the preceding pages. Her standings add up to only 15 points, but 15 points for 10.5 million people give a score of 1.428 points per million, the highest relative score of the 35 nations surveyed here.

Because statistical tables are frequently subject to tricks and traps, one must make allowances and try not to titter over the positions of nations like Southern Rhodesia. Blessed with a handful of good motorcycle riders and having a population of only three million, Southern Rhodesia can claim but scarcely deserves her third-place tie with water-polo-playing Hungary (whose strength in ping-pong may be little more convincing). Still, the fact remains that the U.S., No. 1 on the first chart, is far down the list, at No. 13 position, on this one (boos). But notice also that Soviet Russia, at No. 16, is even farther down than that (cheers).

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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