Saturday, January 25, 2020

The Global Sports Atlas

Zeit's Small Sport Atlas uses OpenStreetMap data to explore where different sports are played around the world. Sports pitches, courts and fields are tagged on OpenStreetMap to show which sports are played on them. This means that OpenStreetMap data can provide a rough guide to where different sports are played in which countries across the globe.

Looking at which countries play different sports can be a fascinating task. Cricket for example is a game which is almost exclusively played in countries that were once subject to British imperialism. The game is huge in India, Australia and South Africa. However at the same time it has never had much impact in the USA or Canada. Soccer on the other hand has spread from Britain to almost all corners of the globe. However association football is perhaps least popular in countries which were once part of the British Empire, including the USA, Canada, India and Australia.

In Europe handball is popular across much of northern Europe. Handball however has failed to take off in the rest of the world and for some reason has never made any impact in English speaking countries. Of the American sports of baseball and American football only baseball has really managed to gain any traction outside of the United States. Baseball is popular in much of central America and in Japan. American football on the other hand is popular almost nowhere outside of the United States, although there are a few American football fields in central Europe.

The Zeit article only maps out where a handful of sports are played around the world. You can explore the geographical distribution of other sports (for example basketball) on taginfo. You should be able to work out how to view maps for different sports for yourself but here are the links to taginfo's maps for the location of basketball courts, tennis courts and rugby.

The geography of golf raises some interesting socioeconomic questions. Being able to dedicate more than 100 acres of land to just one past-time can be an expensive business. The game of golf does then tend to be reserved largely for the idle rich. It shouldn't be that surprising then to discover that a map of the world's golf courses resembles a map of countries with the highest  GDPs.

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