Variance in Recreation by Country

The Country Similarity Index attempts to quantify how similar countries are to each other relative to other countries. The index is a statistically-based way to measure this. 20% of the index is based on culture. 10% of a country’s culture score (2% of the overall Country Similarity Index score) is allocated for a country’s sporting traditions.

Favorite Team Sports

In the vast majority of countries, soccer (association football) is by far the most popular sport. However, there are a few places where this is not the case. After soccer, basketball has the most interest spread across the world, with fans on every continent. Despite that, basketball is the number one sport in only Lithuania, Philippines, and China. Cricket is extremely popular on the Indian sub-continent and places where there are many Indian immigrants, like the Arabian Peninsula. Ice hockey is popular in cold, northern countries, like Sweden, Finland, Russia and Canada. Baseball’s popularity is mostly confined to North America, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Volleyball, Rugby, Handball, and American football are also popular in multiple countries.

Google Trends is the main sources of the data:

Soccer Ranking

Soccer is generally the most popular sport in the world, but some countries have much deeper soccer traditions than others. One way to measure this is the national team’s FIFA ranking. Although Belgium, Portugal, and Uruguay are relatively small countries in population, they all are ranked highly. In contrast, Pakistan and Bangladesh are some of the most populous countries in the world, but have incredibly low rankings. Soccer is not the most popular sport in the Czech Republic or the United States, but their national teams still have high rankings. Meanwhile, soccer is the most popular team sport in Indonesia (the 4th most populous country in the world), yet it is not even one of the top 100 ranked national teams in the world. In general, countries in Western Europe and South America have the highest rankings.

FIFA is the source of the data:

Countries were categorized into the following rankings:
850-975, 975-1100, 1100-1250, 1250-1400, 1400-1575, 1575-1800

Favorite Olympic Sports

The sport in which countries win their most medals in varies widely from country to country. The most common sport that countries get most of their medals in are track & field events. This is especially true for African countries or countries where people have African ancestry. Muslim countries tend to get a lot of their medals in wrestling and weightlifting. Latin America countries most often have medals in boxing. Cold, northern countries tend to get a lot of medals in Winter Olympic events, like skiing and skating.

Sports Reference is the source of the data:

Olympic Medals

Although a country like China may earn many Olympic medals, on a per capita basis, they have relatively few in comparison to many European countries. Norway has an extremely high number of medals per capita, due to its success in the Winter Olympics. Outside of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Bahamas, and Cuba have the most Olympic medals per capita. However, there are also several countries that have never even won an Olympic medal. Bangladesh is the 8th most populous country in the world, but has never won one. In general, countries that are wealthier have more per capita.

Medals Per Capita is the main source of the data:

Countries were categorized into the following groups based on population per weighted medals:
0-62500, 62500-125000, 125000-250000, 250000-500000, 500000-1000000, 1000000+

Obviously there is no one clear way to determine how similar one country is to another. How would you quantify how similar one country is to another?
Please leave any thoughts in the comments section.

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