Alternative ways of presenting the results of the Olympics has become more popular in recent years. Google – as other media outlets – did alternative medal counts allowing you to rank the medals not by their absolute numbers, but by other indicators such as population, GDP, or even more quirky themes such as fans or healthy eating. Back in 2012 I presented a similar alternative perspective and looked at how the number of participants from each country compares to the outcome in the final medal count. The above scatterplot is this year’s version of these statistics, confirming the overall correlation that it clearly helps to have more athletes competing when it comes to the final medal count. But this graph also shows that a larger number of athletes also gets you so far, with countries such as Germany or Australia perhaps staying below their expectations, while a country like the UK, which competed with far less athletes this time then four years ago (when they hosted the event) did remarkably well. Brazil, as the host nation, competed with a large number of athletes (as hosts usually do, not least because they do not need to qualify in all disciplines), also stayed below what the expectations of a larger number of athletes might have suggested.
As the above chart shows, a map is not always necessary to present data in a clear and simple way. Plotting athletes versus medals is a very telling picture that a map can’t show the same way. However, the same theme can also be interesting in cartographic form, telling a different story than a statistical image. Below is a cartogram that shapes all participating nations by a weighted count of their medals (similar to the one proposed by the New York Times in 2008, giving 4 points for each gold, 2 for silver and 1 for a bronze medal) and in addition colouring in the countries by how many athletes each country needed on average to win a medal:
Here the little efficient ratio between participants and medals for Brazil and other countries becomes visible in their geographical distribution, but also how well the US athletes did, with one medal for every less than five participants. Only the teams of Azerbaijan and North Korea were even more efficient in that regard, but also had much smaller teams and therefore far fewer medals in their final count.