France overtook Germany as the most powerful sports nation in Europe in '12, according to Havas Sports & Entertainment’s 8th annual "Great Nations of Sport" study to be released Monday. The world’s top sporting nations -- U.S., China and Russia -- have finished in first, second and third place, respectively, since '06. Havas’ ranking takes into account all podium athletes in every int'l competition in every sport recognized by the IOC. Fifty three sports containing 154 disciplines (i.e. beach volleyball and indoor volleyball) were measured, totaling 5,108 medals. National and continental competitions, such as the European swimming championship, are not included.
WORTH ITS WEIGHT: Gold medals were given more weight in the ranking than silver, and silver more than bronze. Since the interest for specific sports is different in each country, Havas treats each sport with the same degree of importance. Events completed by Nov. 30 were included. France racked up 103 gold medals, a 20% improvement over '09, and moved into fourth place in the overall standings. Last year 34% of France medals were gold, marking a third straight year of increase. Havas Sports & Entertainment President and Global CEO Lucien Boyer said France has always had a strong policy of supporting sport, and attributes the country’s improvement in the rankings to a changing mentality where Gold is the goal, not just an Olympic medal. Boyer: “There has been a generational and cultural shift in France as well as a maturity in athletic performance. We can take the example of Teddy Riner who was disappointed in winning Bronze in judo at Beijing 2008 and finally got the Gold in London, or slalom canoe champion Tony Estanguet who placed ninth in Beijing and succeeded in coming back to win his third Gold Olympic Medal in London, a first for France. So the change may be due to a real concentration and fighting spirit, which made for a strong performance across all world championships and London 2012 in particular.”
ON THE DECLINE: Boyer also noted that Germany won fewer Gold Medals last year, and the U.K. performed spectacularly on their home turf but not enough to make up for other world competitions. Germany, which has seen a steady decline in its medal count since winning 119 in '09, won 85 in '12 and fell to fifth place overall. France was also bolstered by a diverse range of athletic skill, joining the U.S. as the only two countries to win at least one medal in more than half of the 154 measured disciplines. The U.S. continues to dominate the global sports scene, buffeted by its haul of 203 int'l gold medals in '12, 57 more than its nearest competitor, China. The U.S. has finished in first place since Havas’ inaugural study in '05, although its share of the most precious medal has dropped from '06, when it earned 226 golds.
- Spain performed extremely well in sports that receive mass media attention, such as football (they were the Euro 2012 champions), basketball (European champions and Olympic Silver Medalists) and tennis.
- Grenada’s Kirani James won a Gold Medal in the 400m race at the London 2012 Olympic Games as well as the World Championships giving the tiny country one medal for every 45,000 residents, the best in the study.
- Seventh place Italy pays $182,400 to any Italian who wins an Olympic Gold Medal, the highest such government payout in the world. In second place was Russia, paying nearly $135,000. Third was France, paying $65,200.