Olympic Games 2016: 10 fascinating facts, figures and graphs from Rio

rio olympic games 2016 brazil us army flickr

The Olympic Games have come and gone, and Rio will once again fall quiet. But that doesn’t mean it’s over for us data lovers. In fact, the real fun is only just beginning.

Thanks to modern technology, we have access to a slew of data sets from practically all sports, and all parameters.

Although the Games didn’t go without incident, it was a largely successful tournament for host Brazil, and medal dominator United States. It was also a triumph for South African athletics, with two gold medals won in two feature races.

But what about the other numbers behind the games? Take a look at nine interesting snippets, data sets, graphics, and images from the Rio Olympics.

Usain Bolt vs Justin Gatlin’s fluctuating times over 100m

Usain Bolt is a ridiculously quick human being, but he wasn’t always the fastest man on earth. A US sprinter by the name of Justin Gatlin has had a few things to say about the Jamaican’s dominance over the past decade. Have a look at their comparative fastest 100m times from 2004 to 2016.

Michael Phelps’ ridiculous Olympic winning streak

Michael Phelps is now an Olympic legend, winning a total of 23 gold medals in the four Olympic Games he’s competed in. Debuting in Athens 2004, Phelps has dominated the medals table practically every Olympics since, and finished this year’s competition as the top medals winner once again. His performance in Rio pales in comparison to the Beijing games of 2008, where Phelps claimed eight golds.

The all-times medals table per country, from 1896

The Olympic Games debuted over a century ago in 1896, so it’s worth looking at the number of medals each country has accrued over the years of competition. Unsurprisingly, the United States leads the roost, with the defunct USSR coming in second. Rather impressively, China is eighth in the table, competing in just ten games compared to the US’s 27.

Google’s final (and alternative) medals table, Olympic Games 2016

We’ve mentioned Google’s alternative medals table in a previous post, but it’s worth another look. The table, while quantifying the final medals table outright, also factors in GDP, health and overall online interest, judging countries’ achievements through these filters as well.

Michael Phelps an Olympic legend, winning a total of 23 gold medals in four Olympic Games

The estimated cost of the Rio Olympic Games prior to opening ceremony

Hosting the Olympic Games is not a cheap affair. Stadiums, infrastructure and transportation services need to be built, improved or scrapped entirely. This is what Rio de Janeiro faced during these Olympic Games. The city received a new metro line, as well as a slew of new venues for events like BMX and canoe slalom. But how much did it all cost? The graphic below sums it up.

Total cost of Olympic Games prior to Rio

If you think Rio spent ludicrous amounts of cash preparing for the Games, think again. The below graph documents the spending of previous hosts of both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. Russia’s south-western city Sochi, which hosted the Winter Olympic Games in 2014, is a clear top spender. Sarajevo in comparison, spent just US$10-million preparing for the Winter Games of 1984.

The estimated cost of winning a medal

The UK government set the Great Britain team a 48 medal target for Rio, which it met with relative ease. But while winning medals is great for large nations, how much does each medal actually cost a country’s citizens? According to a tweet by BBC’s Thomas Niblock, a fair amount.

For Australia, this figure could be as high as US$8.3-million per medal. But because medalists are citizens of their countries, and therefore taxpayers, this affects them as well. The best example is the tax 19-year-old US gymnast Simone Biles will foot on her five golds. The BBC estimates it could be as high as US$43 500.

Golf makes a global Olympic return

Golfers last took part in the Olympics at the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis, USA.

2016 saw the sport’s return, and with it a slew of countries’ professional golfers. Although not a groundbreaking set of graphics, these two images from Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons depict the popularity of golf across the world. The top image shows qualified male golfers in each country, and the lower qualified women. Qualification was based on World Rankings.

Olympic Games 2016 golf mens womens Wikimedia Commons

Image: Wikimedia Commons

The popularity of Caster Semenya and Wayde van Niekerk in Google Search

Google Trends doesn’t allow more than five names per search query, which stretches the usefulness of this visualisation, but it’s still interesting to note the global interest of some of the Games’ outstanding stars. We took some of the Olympic Games’ biggest personalities and South Africa’s new athletics darlings and asked Google to do the rest. The result? Quite interesting.

The gender politics of search in different sports

A late addition to the list, Google Trends’ Twitter account is always a good follow. The below tweet and graph, highlights the number of searches comparatively made for a male athlete in a particular sport, and a female athlete. It’s clear that while Google searches for some sport are fairly balanced, others, like golf are remarkably biased.

Feature image: U.S. Army via Flickr

Andy Walker, former editor


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