A majority of people in 18 out of 21 countries said the way their team performs at the Olympics was important to their national pride, a study shows.
People in developing and middle-income countries get the greatest lift from Olympic achievements, according to the BBC Global Poll.
Nine out of 10 (91%) Kenyans asked linked Games success to national pride.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it was "pleased the Olympic dream continues to excite people".
A spokesman added: "Whether as hosts of the Olympic Games or thanks to the sporting exploits of their athletes, the Games have shown time and again their capacity to unite nations."
A total of 21,061 people were surveyed earlier this year for the poll.
Some 86% of Filipinos, 84% of Turks and 83% of Indonesians asked said the way their country performs at the Olympics affects their national pride "a lot" or "some".
Meanwhile the poll indicated the UK was one of the exceptions to the overall picture, with almost as many saying Olympic performance matters only "a little" or "not at all" to their pride in being British (48%) as those saying it does affect their national pride (50%).
'Triumphs and struggles'
And the number of people linking their national pride with their country's Olympic performance in France, (51%) and Spain (58%), was only slightly higher than in the UK.
In response to the findings the IOC added: "The scenes across Canada during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games and those in Afghanistan when it got its first medal at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games thanks to Rohullah Nikpai's performance in Taekwondo, are just two examples, among many, of how the Olympic Games and Olympic Movement have inspired countries and their populations."
Jehue Gordon, 20, a hurdler from Trinidad, said for him, national pride was a prime motivator.
He said: "Just thinking about my country's population and problems compared to the rest of the world, I'm intrinsically motivated to put the red, white and black out there on the map and instil some nationalism in Trinidad and Tobago."
And Merlyn Diamond, also 20, a Namibian sprinter, said: "Sport is the one thing that can unite a nation.
"An Olympic medal not only rewards an athlete's hard work but naturally a nation, helping the nation not only to pride itself on its talented athletes but to unite in one voice and strive to develop other young talents.
"An Olympic medal is what dreams of an athlete and nations are made of."
Rio is hosting the 2016 Olympics but the survey, carried out by GlobeScan between 3 July and 8 September 2011, showed that in Brazil, as with the UK and Germany, those who said Olympic success affects their national pride were in the minority.
Some 48% of Brazilians asked said their athletes' performance affected their national pride, and 50% said it did not.
Doug Miller, chairman of GlobeScan, said: "The poll confirms that the Olympics are more than a sporting event, with national pride very much engaged, especially in developing countries and China.
"But Olympic performance least drives national pride in some countries that will soon actually host, and pay for, Olympic Games."
However, British Olympic Association spokesman Darryl Seibel said the results were encouraging and showed the Olympic movement, and the values upon which it is built, continue to resonate and unite people.
He said: "In an era in which strong differences of opinion and sharp rhetoric often define our public debate, to get half the population of a country to agree on something is a remarkable achievement.
"It speaks to the power of the Olympic movement and the inspiration people often derive from the triumphs and struggles of Olympic athletes.
"One of our objectives for 2012 is to inspire as many people as possible throughout the UK through the performances of Team GB athletes, and these results suggest we are working from a very strong foundation."
But London 2012 organisers Locog maintained: "Whilst we recognise the part team success plays in building national pride, we have always believed that the country will be more inspired by great British moments and exciting international sporting triumphs rather than a medals table."
By Jane Mower