An inspired generation: London 2012 athletes

In a “Five-Ring Opening Circus, Weirdly and Unabashedly British” (New York Times) host city London welcomed the world to the 2012 Olympics. The games are meant to inspire a generation, which is the motto of the event.
And there was plenty of time to be inspired at the opening ceremony, especially while thousands of the more than 10,000 competitors took part in the athletes’ parade. But the size of a country’s team hardly reflects its population size, rather than the efforts and capabilities that are put into sending athletes to the Olympics. It is perhaps not surprising that Team GB of the host nation brings on the largest team with 541 athletes this time (or 557 according to the Guardian). The wealthier parts of the world tend to have the lager teams, with Europe dominating the stage by far. At the other end of the scale are countries such as Bhutan (and others) with only two athletes.
Beyond all the ancient spirit, the Olympics are an unequal game. Not only in the number of participants at the event, but eventually also in the results that will see a lot of the wealthy world dominate the medal rankings (which I mapped for the Vancouver Olympics). Nevertheless, part of the original idea is a peaceful competition of the nations, which many still see persist over all commercialisation and other points of criticism. In this light, this year’s athletes are the generation that has been inspired to be part of that and who shall inspire future generations, regardless of their success in bare medal terms. The following map shows where all the over 10,000 sportsmen and women have traveled to London from this year (the two inset maps show the world’s population distribution in comparison and a conventional land area map as a reference):

Cartogram / Map of athletes participating in the 2012 Olympics in London
(click for larger version)

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