Summer Olympics: Medal Tally

A parallel coordinates/beeswarm chart

Everybody knows that, in Rio 2016 Olympic Games, USA led the medal table, China was the runner-up, Great Britain took the third place etc. We all saw the medal table on the news. But, when Fiji won the rugby sevens, I thought: “what’s the proportional number of medals, taking into account the size of the country and its population?” USA has 300 million people, but New Zealand has only 4 million. Proportionally, who won more medals? And what if we also take into account the number of athletes in each delegation?

That’s what this mix of parallel coordinates and beeswarm chart does. On the left, we have the traditional ranking of the countries by number of medals won (contrary to the official ranking, where the number of gold medals defines the positions, this is a simple ranking by the total number of medals). On the center, we have the number of medals normalized to 100,000 people, and on the right the results normalized to the number of athletes in each delegation.

When we see these alternative rankings, countries like Grenada, Bahamas, Azerbaijan, North Korea, Takikistan, Jamaika and Kosovo show up. Surprisingly, USA, who ranks top in the traditional count, didn’t do too badly in the other two, specially in the “medals by athlete” ranking.

Change the count by clicking on “Total Medals” and “Gold Medals”, explore the chart by hovering the circles, and highlight any country using the dropdown menu.

What is a beeswarm chart?

In short, a beeswarm plot is a one-dimensional plot, that is, a plot where just one axis contains information. Unlike a stripchart, the points don’t overlap in a beeswarm plot. Also, unlike a traditional bar chart for a ranking, in this plot the distance between the data points is important.

There are some advantages in using a beeswarm. For instance, this plot shows 87 countries at once, and that would be awkward in a bar chart. Besides that, we can get the “whole” picture quicker: it’s easy to see what countries stand out.

What is a parallel coordinates chart?

A parallel coordinates chart is a chart made of parallel axes, normally vertical, where each axis represents a dimension. In this case, each axis is a beeswarm of a given dimension, and the lines connect the countries from one axis to the other.

Source of the data: Wikipedia.