Olympic intelligence Featured

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With the 2016 Rio Olympic Games having come to a close, and with South Africa achieving its highest medal score since 1920, the country is applauding our many sporting heroes – most notably Caster Semenya, Chad le Clos, and of course, Wayde van Niekerk.

Olympic intelligence2016 is our 18th Olympic appearance. South Africa first participated in the Olympic Games in 1904, and sent athletes to compete in every Summer Olympic Games until 1960, when the United Nations General Assembly passed a Resolution to bar South Africa from the Games in response to the policy of apartheid.

South Africa returned to the Games in 1992. In the five Games we’ve participated in since returning to compete, our best performance was in Athens 2004 with six medals. In total, South Africa has 76 medals (excluding this year’s Games): 23 gold, 26 silver and 27 bronze.

It seems that sporting events like the Olympics get everyone excited about statistics. Analyses are done of historical wins versus current performance, world records are bandied about, as are the ages weights, fitness levels and other numerical factors related to the athletes.

As a result, international Business Intelligence (BI) software vendor Yellowfin took the opportunity to showcase its product by evaluating different Olympic statistics and correlating them to other facts and figures. While some of the outcomes were to be expected, others provided a different view of the effort behind the Games.

For example, Yellowfin did some visualisations of how a country’s affluence correlates with the number of athletes that country is able to send to compete as well as what is the relationship between the total medal count and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of each country is. Correlating the GDP and total medal value amassed for each country at the last five Summer Olympics exposes a definite association: Nations with higher GDP accumulated higher medal values. With few exceptions, the higher the GDP of a country in that Olympic year, the higher the medal value it accrued too.

Interestingly, the BI software found that – despite the media furore around the Russian athletes’ use of banned substances – the 2012 and 2016 Games had fewer doping violations than the 2004 and 2008 events, with 2004 reaching an all-time high. Aside from the highly controversial and politicised 1980 Moscow Games, which the USA boycotted, at least one doping violation has been recorded at every Summer Games since official IOC drug testing began at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

It comes as no surprise that weightlifting is the sport at the top of the doping violations list, but it’s interesting to note that cross country skiing comes in at third place, behind athletics. What is surprising is that correlations of this nature haven’t been looked at before.

With technology continuing to move in leaps and bounds, this begs the question of what kind of intelligence we will be able to glean from a few data points in the future.

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Copyright: kentoh / 123RF Stock Photo

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Crown Publications, one of South Africa’s largest business-to-business publishing houses, came into existence in 1986. Since then, the company has grown from producing a single magazine, Electricity SA (renamed Electricity+Control), to publishing six monthly magazines, three quarterlies, and a number of engineering handbooks.