Why do countries dominate certain sports?

Professor Paul Oyer

Freakonomics revealed that economics is everywhere. But what about the world of sport? Why are some countries better at certain sports than others? And what does economics have to do with it?

Learn about this Garden Talk

Success in sport is due to a combination of talent, luck & hardwork. Economics doesn't play a role....or does it?

We know from watching the Olympics that certain countries seem to outperform in certain disciplines. Could this be due to chance or genetic advantages or are there other economic factors at play?

Why do South Koreans dominate women's golf even though it's really hard to find a golf course in Seoul? Why are the Dutch so good at speed skating?  And why are Czech women so good at tennis despite their country's climate being nothing like Florida or California?  Or why do the Norwegians dominate the rest of the world in cross-country skiing?

What makes one country great at one particular sport? Is it possible to pin down why a country embraces a sport in the first place and why they dominate it thereafter?

Professor Paul Oyer, from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, is an avid sports fan and his research has revealed just how big a role economics plays in sports both on and off the field. Could understanding a bit of economics make you a better athlete, a more informed fan or build a championship sports team?

Talk outline


50 minutes

What to expect

30 minute talk

20 minute Member Q&A

About the Fellow

Professor Paul Oyer

Paul Oyer is a Professor of Economics at Stanford Graduate School of Business and an avid sports fan.