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Does a country’s financial situation define its level of
sporting success?

Why do certain countries excel in sporting events whilst
others do not to the same extent? Some views are that it is down to the finance
that is provided by their government so that the nation’s athletes can exceed
to their best capabilities in their sport. Vast amounts of research has been
carried out and the athletes that have been proven to have the best sporting
success in certain countries that had plenty of financial aid, an appropriate climate
to train in and a large population, meaning there are more people to select
their top athletes from. However this is not always true. For example, there
are countries such as Ethiopia are labelled as LEDC countries, however they
still manage to succeed in sports such as endurance events, like long distance
running, both on the track and road runs (marathons). Therefore, some people believe
sporting success shouldn’t be based on these factors.

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The first country I am going to compare is Ethiopia. Ethiopia
is the 70th largest country in the world, with a GDP of 72.37
billion US$1.
This figure shows that the country is not a wealthy country and it is therefore
described as a LEDC. It is located in east Africa, next to other countries such
as Kenya, Somalia and Eritrea. As the country is labelled as a LEDC, there isn’t
much money that the country can input into sport. This means top class sports
facilities can’t be accessible and they can’t afford expert coaches compared to
MEDC countries such as the USA or England. This is why people assume that the
country wouldn’t have large amounts of sporting success. This is mainly true
apart from endurance events such as long distance running.

A BBC article that suggests why east Africans are so good at long
distance running2
states that the environment they train in and biological factors have a huge
effect. As Ethiopia is located in east Africa majority of the endurance runners
live and train in mountainous areas, these areas have high levels of altitude. The
air is ‘thinner’ meaning there are fewer molecules of oxygen per volume of air,
because of this the athletes have more haemoglobin in their red blood cells, as
haemoglobin is the oxygen carrier in the red blood cells. This means the more
the cells have, the more oxygen they can carry in their blood around the body3. When
the athletes travel to countries with low altitude to compete they will be able
to carry more oxygen in their red blood cells than other athletes, meaning the
muscles can respire more and provide the muscles with the oxygen released from
the aerobic activity completed. From this research, it proves that the area athletes
train in has an effect on their sporting success. The article also talks about biological
factors that could affect their sporting success. The article suggests that the
desired body type for long distance running is light and lean, majority of east
Africans are born with this body type due to genetics being passed down. This
body type may also be due to the fact that not many people in the area have
much food anyway so many people are lean and small.

Many east African athletes use running as a way to provide
for their family and to earn a living for themselves. In the races the winner
will receive winnings, for example the winner of the London marathon will receive
$55,0004. This
figure will be huge amounts more than the average east Africans yearly salary, meaning
they may be more motivated to train more than athletes in other countries to
make this figure a reality for them. By using a BBC article as a source, I think
these points are fairly trustworthy as this website is a reliable and well-known

This information researched and sourced proves that even when
a country is labelled as an LEDC they can still have sporting success due to
other factors, this shows that a country’s financial situation does not define
its level of sporting success.


The second country I’m going to compare is the USA, it has
the largest economy in the world with a GDP of 18.57 trillion US$5. I
have got these figures from the world back website, I think it is creditable as
the figures are precise and therefore reliable. As is has the largest economy
in the world it is definitely classed as an MEDC.

For many years the USA have dominated in many sports
throughout the world, especially sports such as basketball, baseball, track and
field and swimming. The USA have won a total of 2520 medals the Olympic games,
this is the highest number achieved by any country6. This
therefore proves that the USA has had the most sporting success as a country.

As it is the country with the most sporting success, the
country must be doing something right in order to win so many medals. Compared
to other countries their sporting facilities are top notch. Every school at
minimum has a big field that hosts football, soccer, field
hockey, baseball; at the most, separate fields for each of those sports, with
indoor training and practice facilities. And basketball courts, sometimes
multiple courts, are a commonality7. This
means from a young age all children are involved in sport whether supporting a
team or sport classes in school, this gives them motivation to play and get
active. Most sports such as American football were actually popular in collages
(in the 1890’s) before professional American football (in the 1950’s)8. This
shows sports from a young age is taken far more seriously in education compared
to other countries.

Due to majority of kids
competing in at least one sport during their childhood and the USA having the 3rd
highest population in the world (323.1 million)9,
certinelly higher than Ethiopia and the UK (Ethiopia’s – 102.4 million, GB’s –
65.64 million10), it means they have a
higher number of people to choose their top athletes from, meaning there is a
higher chance some athletes will be of a better ability to begin with and can therefore
go on to win more events and medals.

Team USA are one of the only
countries who don’t receive funding from the government for its Olympic programmes,
instead the USA athletes rely on donations to help fund sport performance
services, elite-level coaching, Olympic training centres and international
this information was sourced from the Team USA website, this is a creditable
source as it is the official website, making the statistics reliable. This
means that even though the size of the country is huge, it still receives less
funding (50 million US$12) for
the Olympics compared to countries such as the UK. This proves that although
the USA doesn’t receive the most funding they still have the most sporting
success for a country, proving that a country’s financial situation doesn’t always
define its sporting success. Instead it can be down to how sport is treated and
taken in education, types of training facilities and the number of people in a


The third place I’m going to compare is Great Britain. Great Britain
has the 5th largest economy in the world and is again described as a
MEDC. The UK’s GDP is 2619 billion US$, this information was again sourced from
the world bank website13.

Great Britain is another very successful country in the
sporting world. Throughout the past Olympic games, they have been considerably
improving every 4 years. In the 2004 Athens Olympics GB only won 30 medals, in the
2008 Beijing Olympics the medal count increased to 47, when the Olympics were
held in London that was when the medal count increased dramatically, GB won a
total of 65 medals. A contributing factor to this could have been it was hosted
in their home country. Finally, in 2016 the number of medals won increased again
to 67 medals. Huge part of the country being able to increase the number of
medals they have won is due to the amount of funding provided by the government
and sporting governing bodies to support the athletes.

The UK do not pay the athletes for winning gold medals compared to other countries
such as Australia, however some of the funding provided by the government pays
the athletes annual training and stipends (a fixed sum
paid to the athlete regularly as a wage).

to UK Sport, £543 million will be invested in the current 2013-17 cycle. This
is mainly Government funding, with around £60 million from the National Lottery14, this information was
sourced from the wales online website, this information is creditable as they
have compared many statistics to come up with a fixed value. The £543 million
will then be split up and given to different programmes to provide investment. £61M
to partner investment, £387M to world class performance investment, £70M to UK
sport programmes and £25M to gold event series. Investment decisions are made on a four-year basis
to cover a complete Olympic or Paralympic cycle but are focussed on an eight
year performance development model.15

This funding provided has a huge
impact on the success rate of the GB athletes as it allows them to be able to
train in top class facilities, employ the expert coaches to maximize their
potential and to provide the athletes all with a decent annual salary so the
athletes can fully focus on training for their sport and to maximize their
potential, as the more training they do the better their performances will be
in competition, therefore winning more medals for their country. The funding
provided to GB for sport is the highest of the three countries I have
researched, although Great Britain has the smallest population of the three
countries. Even though GB has a small population compared to other countries around
the world it is still placed 3rd the total number of medals won in
the Olympics (847). This could be down to the successful funding system they
have and GB therefore supports the theory that the financial situation of a
country does define its level of sporting success.


In conclusion, I think that there are many
different factors that affect a country’s sporting success. Yes, I believe that
the economic status of a country does play a massive part as it gives countries
the opportunity to input money to improve things like sporting facilities and
types of coaches, the better these are, the more sporting success the country
will have. This is how GB’s sporting success has taken place as it is shows
that the more the government invested into the sports the most successful they
became. However, research is still being carried out to investigate the other
factors that affect sporting success. These include the climate the athletes
live in (whether there is high altitude). Ethiopia is a prime example at that as
it has very little money therefore cannot invest much into their sports and
their athletes but they still come out and perform at the Olympics and win
medals, such as the 8 athletic medals they won at Rio. Or the size of the
population (the bigger the population the higher levels of sporting success).
The USA is a prime example of this because although they don’t receive funding
from the government, they are still the most successful country due to their
large range of athletes they can choose from as they have a high population. These
factors now effect my opinion as before I thought sporting success was all
based on the financial situation of a country and how much funding they
receive, whereas now I think sporting success is based on all the factors
contributed together.
































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