New Books Network

Today we are joined by Danyel Reiche, Associate Professor of Comparative Politics at the American University of Beirut, and the author of Success and...

Today we are joined by Danyel Reiche, Associate Professor of Comparative Politics at the American University of Beirut, and the author of Success and Failure of Countries at the Olympic Games (Routledge, 2016)

In Success and Failure, Reiche provides a playbook for National Committees that want to win more medals. Reiche’s fascinating work moves beyond the macro level analysis of international sports success to offer concrete policy initiatives for the 21st century. Previous studies have shown that GDP, population size, and even political or cultural ideologies can grant some countries athletic advantages – for example geography plays a large role in determining the winners at the Winter Games – but Reiche illustrates that these factors are not the only ones that matter. Why is Germany so successful at the luge while snowy Sweden seems to unsuccessful. The key to winning medals, Reiche’s WISE formula suggests, lay in (W) investing in female athletes, (I) institutionalization of a nation’s sports management, (S) specialization in specific sports, and the (E) early adoption of new sports or sports practices. In developing his WISE formula, Reiche called upon a wide array of secondary source material as well as his own original research in sports in the Middle East. Along the way, he offers a thorough examination of sports policies, programs, and pitfalls around the world as case studies. His examinations leads us from the institutionalization of sports in Australia to the achievements of the Chinese women’s weight lifting team. Only the United States seems to defy easy categorization. Danyel Reiche’s compelling book should be required reading for sports bureaucrats around the world but will also be of interest to scholars and lay readings fascinated by the Olympic Games.


Keith Rathbone is a lecturer at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.  He researches twentieth century French social and cultural history. His manuscript, entitled A Nation in Play: Physical Culture, the State, and Society during France’s Dark Years, 1932-1948, examines physical education and sports in order to better understand civic life under the dual authoritarian systems of the German Occupation and the Vichy Regime.  If you have a title to suggest for this podcast, please contact him at keith.rathbone@mq.edu.au