Data visualization and storytelling


How to visualize the Olympics

Exploring the evolution, achievements, and highlights of the Winter and Summer Olympics through data visualization

The Olympic Games are a global phenomenon, bringing together nations in a showcase of athletic prowess and competitive spirit. This year, the world turns its eyes to Paris, hosting the games for the third time. From countdowns and medal tables to team line-ups and venue maps, there are endless ways to visualize data on the Olympics and get readers excited for the events ahead.

In this blog, we’ll explore straightforward and effective ways to visualize the Olympics, making it easier for fans and enthusiasts to digest the information and stay updated. Dive in as we break down the numbers behind the games.

Can’t wait until the Olympics are back and want to know how many days are left? Our Countdown template is perfect for visualizing exactly that.

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1. Schedule and medal tables

With 32 different disciplines, each with numerous competitions, it’s easy to lose track of what is happening and when. An interactive table is the perfect tool to show a quick overview of the whole month’s schedule.

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Once the Olympics have started, you can create a live-updating, searchable database – perfect for tracking each nation’s medal count!

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When it comes to simple stats, basic chart types are often the best choice. But why not spice it up with a pictogram?

A pictogram is a great choice for communicating data in a visually engaging way. As you can see in the example below, this visualization type represents numerical data by grouping repeated icons. Each icon symbolizes a medal earned by the corresponding country.

You can add your own custom icons to your pictogram. Read our help doc to learn how.

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You can offer even more detail with a slope chart, visualizing each country’s journey throughout the games. Has the country on top of the medal table – here Norway – been there the entire time?

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And how do the medals compare to previous games? Using our Scatter template, the visualization below shows the number of medals won for the top countries, from 1896 to 2020. Each dot represents one participation in the Summer Olympics, sized by total number of medals won.

While showing the individual country’s performance, the visualization also illustrates when countries have started participating in the Games.

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2. Spotlight on disciplines

Our Sports Race template allows you to visualize events that involve a fixed track or course – such as athletics, swimming, and sailing.

The template comes ready to use for a number of sports, but you can also easily upload your own track and participant icons to cover different events. The settings allow you to recreate all the races at this year’s Olympics, and even give medals to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place athletes.

Here are two custom-made examples, representing swimming and Cross-country skiing at the Summer and Winter Olympics.

You can find the swimming starting point in our template library, and if you want to learn more about uploading your own track our course, head to our help doc.

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A key area of interest in Olympic disciplines is the trajectory of broken records. The scatter chart below illustrates the evolution of world records in the men’s 100-meter sprint throughout history. Usain Bolt dominates this pace as he has maintained his record for nearly 15 years, marking an exceptional milestone in sprinting.

The chart’s X axis shows a significant reduction in time, transitioning from 10.6s down to an impressive 9.5s, reflecting advancements in athletic performance and training methodologies over the decades. Head to our help doc to learn how you can highlight a dot in your scatter plot.

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A heatmap is a great way of showing an overview of your data and comparing different categories, which can come in handy with Olympics data. For example, you could show historical data from particular sports and highlight how some countries outperformed others.

In the chart below, we’ve visualized the medals won by each country in gymnastics events. Learn more about the Heatmap template in this blog post.

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3. Spotlight on the history of the Olympics

44 cities have hosted the Olympics so far – some of them more than once. But how are they distributed around the world? Our Projection Map template is perfect for plotting them and showing patterns.

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Alternatively, you can use our Timeline template to offer more information on each individual host, including some interesting facts.

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Use a column chart to show how the number of participating countries have developed over time. While only 14 countries participated in the first Olympic Summer Games in 1896, this number steadily increased.

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Similary, the number of medals won has been increasing — which is also due to the fact that more and more disciplines have been added compared to the first Games.

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In Paris, athletes will compete in 45 disciplines. To keep track of them and when they have been introduced, an interactive cards visualization is the perfect choice. Click on them to learn more about each sport!

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4. Spotlight on the gender gap

The Olympic Games have long been a showcase of the world’s top athletic talents, but they have also been a reflection of societal gender inequalities. Historically, there has been a notable gender gap in participation, representation, and recognition during the Summer Olympics. Women were initially excluded and even when allowed to participate, the events offered to both genders greatly differed.

However, recent years have witnessed significant progress towards gender equality at the Summer Olympics.

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5. Spotlight on the age of Olympians

Another area you can focus on using data visualization is the range of ages among Olympic athletes. The scatter plot in the story below helps us see how old athletes are in different sports, like the younger gymnasts versus the older equestrians and archers.

Tip: Annotations in stories are ideal for drawing attention to outliers, such as oldest and youngest Olympians.

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Convinced that Ice Hockey is the greatest sport on Earth but not particularly interested in Luge? You’re not alone – with 15 disciplines taking place at the Winter Olympics, it goes without saying that being passionate about them all, 365 days a year, is quite the challenge. Luckily, Google Trends data provides a great overview of people’s interest in winter sports over time.

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To wrap up, visualizing the Olympics helps us see the true scale and variety of this worldwide competition. It turns simple statistics into engaging stories about the athletes and their achievements. Data visualization enables us to explore everything from the range of ages competing to the new records set and all-time medal tables.

Now it’s your turn – are you ready to dive into the data behind the Olympic Games?