Malaysia has dislodged perennial favorite Singapore from the top spot in an international ranking of how countries are viewed around the world.
Singapore fell to sixth place in the 2011 Q2 nation branding perception study conducted by East West Communications, a Washington-based consultancy that provides services to help nations improve their images abroad. East West has been releasing quarterly and yearly perception indexes of 200 countries and major territories since 2008.
This is the first time the Southeast Asian city-state has not finished ahead of the rest of the pack since the quarterly and yearly indexes began.
East West Communications cited “concerns over the country’s economic growth and the apparent growing disparity between the country’s rich and poor” as the reasons for Singapore dropping five places.
Rankings are based on the mentions a country receives in the media. Malaysia’s score was boosted by a number of positive events, mostly related to sports: the Malaysia Grand Prix, the Malaysia Open and gold medals at the Putrajaya Waterski Cup.
Malaysia was followed by Canada, South Korea, the United Kingdom and Ireland. France, India, Hong Kong and South Africa all placed in the top 10.
Grand Prix and NASCAR participants do the same thing: they drive around a track in an automobile as fast as they can. The fastest participant in either format wins. And, because of the high speeds involved, the dangers are equally great in both. Drivers, such as Mario Andretti and Kimi Raikkonen, have switched from one circuit to the other.
Yet there could not be a starker contrast between the two in terms of perception among the sporting public. To put it mildly: Formula One is for the moneyed classes and NASCAR is the sport of the working man. Formula One is Monaco, NASCAR is Indianapolis.
Nowhere were these stereotypes epitomized as strongly as in the 2006 film “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.” NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby, played by Will Ferrell, is a Budweiser-guzzling, fast-food eating, good ole blue collar fella. His antagonist, Jean Girard (Sacha Barron-Cohen), is a wine-sipping, philosophy-reading, gay French crossover from Formula One.