As a concentratedglorification of sport, nothing can jostle that embroidered sampler, theOlympic Games. But in 1962, halfway between the last Olympics and the next, theworld will accumulate an unmatchable wealth of sporting performances. Beforethis entr'acte is done, no less than 25,000 athletes from nearly every nationon earth will meet on international terms to test one another in everythingfrom jumping out of an airplane above Orange, Mass. to leaping a hurdle inJakarta, Indonesia or sinking a basketball in Manila. And, as a rule, everytime someone from one country faces someone from another, world supremacy orinternational prestige or both will be at stake.
How the severalnations engaged are likely to wind up at year's end in 40 major sports (twicethe number contested in the summer and winter Olympics) is shown in the chartbelow. Prepared by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, the chart assigns standings and points(five for first place, three for second, one for third) on the basis of thebest available facts—and hunches. Admittedly, some of the sports listed areparochial in their scope—e.g., football in the U.S., cricket in the BritishCommonwealth—but the picture the chart gives is still an accurate measure ofthe athletic interest and proficiency of the 35 nations prominently involved.Whether a man agrees with its conclusions may depend on his point of view. Andhis homeland.
Ten years ago achart like this would have been half the size; that was before Soviet athletesemerged into sports competition at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and taught a newlesson to Western politicians: athletic superiority is one of the cheapest—andmost effective—propaganda tools available. If a Moscow boy can whip a Bostonboy at the high jump, the whole world, rightly or wrongly, sees in it more thansporting significance.
Quick to catch onto the techniques of playing at worldwide cold war (and quick to get busy toavoid being skunked by the Russians), the free world has accordingly adopted anew attitude toward excellence in world sport. It translates: "Beat theReds."
As the chartshows, gloomily, the Reds don't beat easy. With no international standingwhatsoever in 1951, Soviet athletes today figure in the top ranks of half ofthe world's games, and are in second place in this overall accounting. They areeven learning—by energetic design—to beat the West where the West is best: inbasketball, crew and ice hockey. But the figures also prove that, for thepresent anyway, there is still no athlete like a U.S. athlete.
MAN FOR MAN, IT'SAUSTRALIA
With a total of 69points to Russia's 67 (see below), the U.S. just barely wins the race forheadline space. But though both nations outstrip their closest rivals, Italyand Germany, almost three to one, their high ranking is deceptive. Bothcountries, culturally oriented toward sport, are able to draw upon vastresources of manpower. Thus it is not surprising that both are able to findsomeone someplace who can honorably represent his country abroad.
But, looked atanother way, the best sports nation in the world ought to be the one able to dothe most with what there is to work with. The winner on these man-to-manconditions is Australia. With a population less than that of Pennsylvania,Australia leads or challenges the leaders in five of the 40 sports listed onthe preceding pages. Her standings add up to only 15 points, but 15 points for10.5 million people give a score of 1.428 points per million, the highestrelative score of the 35 nations surveyed here.
Becausestatistical tables are frequently subject to tricks and traps, one must makeallowances and try not to titter over the positions of nations like SouthernRhodesia. Blessed with a handful of good motorcycle riders and having apopulation of only three million, Southern Rhodesia can claim but scarcelydeserves her third-place tie with water-polo-playing Hungary (whose strength inping-pong may be little more convincing). Still, the fact remains that theU.S., No. 1 on the first chart, is far down the list, at No. 13 position, onthis one (boos). But notice also that Soviet Russia, at No. 16, is even fartherdown than that (cheers).
[This articlecontains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
1 GREAT BRITAIN
1 SOUTH AFRICA
1 CHINA (RED)
TRACK & FIELD
POINTS PER MILLION
3. SO. RHODESIA
6. NEW ZEALAND
12. PUERTO RICO
14. GREAT BRITAIN
15. SOUTH AFRICA
18. WEST INDIES
26. KOREA (SOUTH)
34. CHINA (RED)