Data visualization: How your country’s GDP impacts its Olympic success

Today’s Rio 2016 Olympic inspired data visualization is brought to you by Business Intelligence and analytics software vendor Yellowfin: Connecting people and data.

Inclusiveness. It’s hard to think of any global event that inspires, promotes and engenders inclusivity more than the Olympic Games. Parochial support for national squads aside, the biggest roar during last week’s Opening Ceremony at Maracanã Stadium was reserved for the nationless team of refugees competing under the Olympic flag. That says a lot about the nobility of the notion behind The Games.

Olympics.yellowfin.bi >
Has Rio 2016 got you in the mood to delve into some data and explore the modern history of the Olympics? You’re in luck. Check out Yellowfin’s set of stylized and interactive DashXML dashboards.
Explore a 20-year medal history by country >
Tip: Use the filter panel on the left to select the country of your choice.
Explore a 20-year medal history by sport >
Tip: Use the sport icons to filter by sport and the medal icons to filter by medal type

But, despite the virtuous intentions of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), does the Olympics really provide an equal platform on which we can celebrate diversity? As indicated in our previous Olympic data blog, Data Visualization at Rio 2016: Mapping team size by country, there seems to be a pretty clear correlation between a country’s affluence and the number of athletes that country is able to send to compete. And, that got us thinking…

What is the relationship between the total medal count and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of each country? Do wealthier nations essentially purchase Olympic glory?

GDP vs total medal value by country at the Summer Games (1996 – 2012)

Hint: Use the filter button on the top right corner of the chart to filter by country
Data sources: GDP data was obtained via
knoema.com and worldbank.org, with Olympic medal data sourced from olympic.it
Medal value: Medal value is calculated by awarding three points for a gold medal, two for a silver, and one for a bronze.
Calculations: A natural logarithm has been applied to adjust GDP data for inflation and to ensure real dollar comparisons ($US).

Correlating the GDP and total medal value amassed for each country at the last five Summer Olympics exposes a definite association: Nations with higher GDP accumulated higher medal values. With few exceptions, the higher the GDP of a country in that Olympic year, the higher the medal value it accrued too.

So there’s an obvious connection between wealth and Olympic performance. But what about trends over time? Did the countries that increased their GDP between 1996 and 2012 also experience increased Olympic success?

Certainly China, India and Azerbaijan have experienced this associative trend over time. However, there are some countries that experienced an inverse trend over the same time period. For example, Cuba’s GDP steadily decreased 1996 – 2012, while their total medal value steadily increased. A similar trend over time is also evident for Romania and Russia.

So while financial might is certainly a contributing factor to Olympic success, there are many other facets that impact performance too.

Where to next?

With the quality of the facilities, and scale of budget blowouts, being placed under the microscope at Rio 2016, stay tuned for our cost analysis on hosting the Olympics. Do the broader economic benefits really outweigh the required expenditure?

And, with controversial comments and performances in the pool, we’ll also take a look at the prevalence of doping at the Olympics over time. With the immediate polemics put into perspective, are there particular sports and nations that stand out?

Keep a look out for our series of Olympic data blogs, appearing regularly until Rio’s Closing Ceremony (21 August).

And, if you haven’t already, check out our interactive data visualizations and customized Rio 2016 DashXML dashboards at olympics.yellowfin.bi >

Thanks for trying Yellowfin

Please complete the form below to request your copy of Yellowfin today.