Olympic Trivia

By | August 13, 2012

In the spirit of the Olympics, four graphs courtesy of the Economist blog.

1.The types of Olympic games have changed over the years. The Olympics had 26 events in London, but that has not always been the case. As recently as Beijing 2008, there were 28 events.  Well what are some of the events that went away?

  • Rope climbing seems like a simple and difficult sport. Climbing a 20 or 25 foot rope with just your hands. It appeared sporadically 4 times over 40 years
  • Live pigeon shooting in the 1900 Paris Olympics. History.com notes that this went away after some spectators were horrified by the gore and cried
  • Tug-of-war existing between 1900 and 1920. 8 men on each side

Discontinued Olympic Sports

2. Olympians vary in age from 10 to 70 years old. Seems like shooting and equestrian are good choices for the geriatric.  The younger athletes do better in swimming and gymnastics. I guess we shouldn’t let 13 year-olds play with guns anyway.Oldest Olympic Athletes3. Olympians keep getting faster. Dr. Mark Denny, from Stanford, has calculated the theoretical limit to how fast men and women can run (for the geeks: looking at the maximum standard deviation from the mean), and Olympians are rapidly approaching that limit. That probably means that fewer records will be broken in the future. Usain Bolt is crazy fast.

Fast Olympic Runner4. The US has done well at sports for 100 years. In a different post, I showed that there are many ways to measure Olympic medals (e.g., medals per population, medals per GDP, medals per athlete).   That said, the most popular metric is the total number of gold medals. Below, you can see who won the most gold by event over the last 100+ years

  • The US won the majority of golds in track/field (35%), diving (46%), swimming (50%)
  •  The Soviet Union won the majority of the golds in gymnastics (21%) and weight lifting (21%), and wrestling (16%).  Can you imagine if they kept winning after 1989?
  • Overall, the US has won 22% of the golds across all sports

Most Winning Country

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