Olympic Medal Landscape 2012-2016

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Introduction

In this post I share my version of the topography of the Olympic medal landscape. I use three data points: performance in London; a prediction of performance in Rio (by Gracenote); and actual performance in Rio.

I share some data too in regard to Great Britain’s performance in Rio.

The Gold Standard

The United States won 46 gold medals in London in 2012 (and a total of 103 medals). In Rio, the United States won 46 gold medals again but exceeded the total medals won in London by 18 medals.

They have set the gold standard scale for my visualisation. In Rio, Italy moved into the top ten medal winning nations (9th). The predictions for Rio did not have Italy this high up the medal table.

Brazil finished thirteenth on the medal table. My topography for eleven nations in rank order is:

USA

GB

China

Russia

Germany

Japan

France

Korea

Italy

Australia

Brazil

My data for these charts can be found here.

Great Britain

Great Britain is the first team in the history of the Olympic Games to improve its position on the medal table in the first Games after hosting the Games. Great Britain won a total of 69 medals in Rio (27 gold, 23 silver, 17 bronze), 2 more than in London (29 gold, 17 silver, 19 bronze).

My data about performances after hosting the Games can be found here.

There is a fascinating story to tell about Sweden’s performance in Antwerp in 1920. After a gap of eight years during the First World War, Sweden equalled its achievement as host in 1912 on the medal table (2nd) and won one fewer medal (64 compared to 65). That performance is the highest % of medals by a team won four years after hosting the Games.

Photo Credit

Rio de Janeiro (Sama093, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

 

Watching #rio2016 in England

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I am in England at the moment. This is the first time I have been here during an Olympic Games since the Sydney Games in 2000.

When I left for Australia in 2002, Sport England’s World Class Potential and World Class Start programs were in their infancy. The sport system was trying to come to terms with the changes that were occurring as state sponsored athletes and coaches were transforming the performance landscape. A new generation of Performance Directors were accepting responsibility for long-term athlete pathways focussed on Olympic success.

Fourteen years on, it has been fascinating to observe how these changes have been embedded in people’s consciousness. Daily news items about Team GB’s successes are discussed on national and local television.

Just how pervasive this consciousness is was brought home to me during my stay in Bath. I sat in a cafe and heard a couple at the next table discussing the intricacies of Bryony Page’s trampoline routine that won a silver medal. In a queue for a bus, I overheard a group of people talking about Laurine van Riessen’s bike handling skills at the velodrome. Both were informed, interested exchanges.

Amidst the excitement of Team GB’s performance, there have been three experiences that have stood out for me in the first week. Before I mention these, I do want to pay my respects to the ways in which athletes talk about their performances and their humility about their successes. Throughout the first week I sense that the Team GB ethos has been very powerful. A system that was naive in 2002 is now a highly sophisticated, successful culture.

My three experiences of delight:

  1. Joe Clarke‘s gold medal run in the K1 canoe slalom class.
  2. The GB swim team‘s competitiveness and the emergence of their relay success.
  3. Max Whitlock‘s two individual gymnastic gold medals (floor and pommel).

Each of these has a personal resonance for me and I hope to write about each of them in a subsequent post.

This has been a most surprising week. It is very different to my experience of Olympic coverage and conversation in Australia.

I am hopeful that my professional stranger place in British sporting culture will sharpen my focus about performance environments.

I have had just one recurring angst in this first week. Many of the programs that have been successful express relief that they might receive funding for the Tokyo cycle to 2020. It must be very disconcerting to be a less successful program (defined by medals) in a vibrant Team GB. But this is another conversation.

Photo Credit

Rio 2016 (Ian Burt, CC BY 2.0)