A Visual History of the Olympics

In this visualization, we draw a timeline showing the number of medals of the top 5 countries over the entire history of the Olympic games. To find who the top medalists are, you can look at our 'medals by country' table. The visualization is inspired by the fantastic article A Visual History of Which Countries Have Dominated the Summer Olympics by the New York Times. We're drawing the chart using a simple area chart, so it is not as beautiful, but it shows many of the interesting facts:

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The visualizations shows a number of interesting facts that go well beyond the history of Olympic games, but reveal something about the last century:

  • World Wars — As you can see, no medals were awarded in 1916, 1940 and 1944. During the first and second world war, the Olympic games were cancelled.

  • Olympic Boycotts — The United States did not get any medals in 1980 because of the Moscow Olympic games boycott and Soviet Union did not get any medals in 1984 because of the L.A. Olympic games boycott.

To build the visualization (see the "source"), we had to explicitly list the countries to show and also add their names as labels for the chart. This could be a bit easier, but you can still quite easily modify the visualization to see different aspects of the history. Below, you can see one modification which uses the same method to visualize the countries dominating long distance runs. Alternatively, you can choose to compare different countries by modifying the list of countries written as [ .. ]. For example, compare medals by the teams of German, West Germany and East Germany as separate entities!

Countries Dominating Long Distance Runs

This visualization adapts the Visual History of Olympics to only show medals of long distance runs, including the marathon, 10km and 5km runs for both men and women. The visualization is based on the nice article A Visual History of Which Countries Have Dominated the Summer Olympics in the New York Times. The difference is that now you can verify how we processed the, but you can
also add other disciplines to the list!

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To find out which countries dominate the Olympic games in specific sports, you'll first need to go to our Medals per Team Table. When you click "options", you can easily add or remove disciplines or sports. Then you can modify the visualization here to include different sports and different countries. Try to recreate some of the New York Times Visualizations and share your results by clicking the "share" button!