Olympic participation data

These data visualizations are my-work-in-progress as I learn to use Tableau desktop. The data is based on Wikipedia.

The economic effect on athletes, 50-year comparison

The following image shows the relative number of men and women athletes who participated in each Olympic games between 1900 and 1950 (inclusive).  A few notes about colors and such: The intensity of the colors indicates relative highest and lowest number of athletes with green high and red low. You can see the year of the games along with the women’s data. Not surprisingly, the data reveals that the number of women athletes is rising every year the games are held. But why the interruption in 1932?

Olympics 1900-1950

Missing data: The games were cancelled in 1916 due to WWI and also cancelled in 1940 and 1944 due to WWII. This does not explain the anomaly of 1932.

Although the Great Depression originated in the United States in 1929, it would be felt around the world for years to come. Reductions in personal income and tax revenue that accompanied declines in heavy industry, farming, construction, and international trade would affect the nations that previously sent athletes to the games. Fewer could afford to attend. This is shown in the data visualization above.

Women vs. men, 50-year comparison

The following image shows the relative number of men and women athletes who participated in each Olympic games between 1962 and 2012 (inclusive). The same legend characteristics apply as the previous chart.

Olympics 1962-2012

You can easily observe that while the number of women athletes has almost consistently risen with each competition, the number of men is not so consistent. In fact, you can see that for the last 20 years the number of male athletes has steadily declined. What is your explanation for that?

Visualizations and purpose

Keeping in mind that this is merely a learning exercise, here’s what I’ve learned so far.

1. Data analysis and it’s corollary visualization are best when they serve a specific purpose. When it’s undertaken merely as an exploratory rumination, it can lead to incomplete charts and at worst false conclusions. A better approach is to start with a problem to be solved, determine the appropriate metrics and build a visual representation of the movement toward or away from the solution.

2. Most images that involve a time-bound factor are better when the time is represented in a common and consistent way. For example, years or minutes should progress from low to high (or vice versa) with equal physical space.

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