The Most Widely Played Sport is Volleyball
As part of the analysis of popular world sports, here is a ranking of (Olympic) sports based on how widely they are played around the world. The table below uses data from the Olympic Program Commission, Report to the 117th IOC Session from 24 May 2005, showing the number of National Federations for each sport.
In addition to the current Olympic sports at the time (Baseball and Softball has since been dropped), the paper included the data for national federations for sports looking at being included in future Olympic programs: Roller Sports, Golf, Rugby, Karate and Squash.
See also the discussion of the most popular Olympic Sports, including an analysis of traffic to the Olympic Commission website. The data below has also been used to compare the popularity of sports between the major regions of the world.
Volleyball is played most widely
The Olympic sport played in the most countries, based on the number of National Federations for the sport, is volleyball with basketball not far behind. This represents a wide reach for these originally North American sports, doing better than the sport usually considered to be most widespread, soccer (ranked 4th), and the other 'universal sport' of running (Track and Field) (ranked 3rd). This list only included Olympic sports or those wishing to be. A non-Olympic sport often found on the lists of most popular world sports is cricket, which has only 105 national member federations (compared to 218 for volleyball), which would rank it very low on this list. Cricket is very popular in highly populated countries, but not widely played.
Number of National Sporting Federations (for Olympic Sports in 2005)
|rank||International Federation||Sport||National Federations|
|3||IAAF||Athletics (Track & Field)||211|
- IOC - Olympic Program Commission, Report to the 117th IOC Session, 24 May 2005.
- This list does not really show how popular a sport is, as even though a country may have a national federation, the sport many not be played by many people in that country.
- Camparison of the popularity of sports between the major regions of the world, using the same data as above.
- other top 10 lists of the world's most popular sports
- Other world sport lists