Visualizing the Summer Games

As the world looks to Rio, we look to the data.

Welcome to our curated viz gallery! Join us as we explore the data stories behind the competitions in Rio. Several of these vizzes are by you, our talented community. Tweet us your work, and do check back as we'll continue to add to our collection.

Viz podium

Start with these three medal-worthy vizzes, then explore the entire collection below.

Who will dominate on the hardwood?

The US men's basketball team has historically dominated the Summer Games, winning a total of 14 gold medals. But Spain has been right behind the US in the last two competition, taking home the silver both times. Will Spain manage to unseat the US this year?

Who is the greatest decathlete of all time?

What if all the top decathletes throughout history competed side by side? As Neil Richards shows us, Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic has the best record in history. And interestingly, some bronze winners outperformed some gold medalists, the viz shows. Click on a line to compare athletes by event.

Will anyone ever break the long-jump record?

At the 1968 Summer Games, Bob Beamon almost didn't qualify for the finals, overstepping his first two attempts. But he went on to jump a record 8.9 meters—a whopping 29 feet and 2.5 inches! The record still stands a leap above the rest, even after the 2016 final. It's no wonder Tom Christian asks: Have we hit peak jump?

The impact of the Fosbury flop on the US high-jump team

That technique that high jumpers use to clear the bar on their backs? American Richard Fosbury first used the method at the 1968 Summer Games—and won the gold. This approach gained popularity in subsequent competitions. But as Rody Zakovich points out, the introduction of the Fosbury flop also marked the end of US dominance in the sport.

Just how fast are the fastest sprinters on Earth?

When you're dealing with the best of the best, competition gets fierce, as Ryan Sleeper shows in this viz. Just 0.02 second separated the men's silver and bronze medalists in the 100-meter race in Rio. Then there are people like Florence Griffith-Joyner. Her 1988 record still remains untouched.

Can the US withstand the Usain Bolt phenomenon?

Americans have historically dominated the 100-meter race, winning four times the number of medals won by all other countries combined. But Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt is giving the US a run for its money, says viz author Adrien Charles.

What's in a name? Maybe a medal?

Want a shot at a medal? "Chances may increase if you change your name," says viz author Kaj Peltonen. Athletes named Kim have won the most medals over the years, but the Zhangs and the Lees have won more in recent years.

Who are the medalists with the most mettle?

Yes, Michael Phelps has won a whole lot of medals, but it turns out some para-athletes have won even more. Swimmer Trischa Zorn, for example, has competed in seven Summer Games and won 55 (!) medals.

Who are the superstar athletes?

Some athletes have won multiple medals at multiple Summer Games. These are the "superstars," as viz author Lindsey Poulter calls them. See the highest yellow dot? That's Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina, who's won 18 medals in three different Summer Games. Hover over each dot to learn more about the athlete. And use the filter to explore all world-class athletes by category.

How competitive are the 100-meter swim races?

When the best of the best compete, the races run close—very close, as Dustin Cabral shows. American Nathan Adrian won the 100-meter freestyle by just 0.01 second (!) in 2012.

And some swimmers shine at the wrong time. Australian Emily Seebohm swam her best during the qualifying round of the 100-meter backstroke. Had she swam as fast during the finals, she would've won the gold.

What can't Michael Phelps do?

Michael Phelps is the first American swimmer to compete in five Summer Games. And he arrived at Rio with 18 gold medals under his belt—the most ever won by a single athlete in the Summer Games. As viz author Rody Zakovich puts it, Phelps is "setting records all day."

How many women compete?

The first-ever games in Greece included no female athletes. Four years later, 22 women (or 2.2% of all athletes) joined the competitions in Paris. That number has steadily grown since, but as of 2012, women still represented less than half of all participating athletes.

Tug of war? At the world level?

Back in 1896, the tradition began with just nine events. Since then, we've added new sports and retired others to reach our current tally of 28. Fun facts: Tug of war used to be an official event in the early years. And table tennis didn't enter the mix until 1988.

The games cost how much?

Rio went over budget—by 51 percent! But it turns out that's pretty darn good. Montreal, for example, went 720% over budget in 1976.

Which cities have applied to host?

Rio won the bid on the fourth try, but other cities haven't been so lucky. Detroit has applied seven times and is still awaiting its turn. Los Angeles, on the other hand, has hosted twice, both times after entering the lone bid.

US hasn't always been top dog

At the first-ever world games, Greece, for the first and last time, won the most medals. The US took the lead in the early 1900s, then fell behind Russia for several decades before reclaiming the top spot in 1984. Check out the medal count for 1980 when 65 countries boycotted the games to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Tracking medal count by population

Yes, the US led in medal count in 2012—but not when you factor in population, as Peter Gilks shows in this viz. (Wow, Grenada!)

Tracking Seattle's hometown heroes

Seattle boasts a number of medal winners, especially in water sports. In rowing alone, our hometown Olympians have won 21 medals, 16 of them gold, over the years.