Sochi: The Winter Olympics Data Story

Feb 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

The XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia are underway. Over the course of 16 days, more than 2,800 athletes from 88 nations are competing in 98 events across 15 disciplines in 7 sports. The volume of sport data accumulated throughout the games—from runtimes on the bobsled course to scores on the ice rink to degrees rotated in the halfpipe—is simply colossal.

Indeed, one surefire legacy of every Olympic Games is a vast trove of data, all of which has been carefully measured, recorded and organized in real-time. The International Olympic Committee maintains an official Olympic Data Feed, which uses Extensible Markup Language (XML) “to send sport information from the moment it is generated to a set of final customers.” These customers include people from news outlets around the world, who sift through the superabundance of data points rendered by the feed and contextualize them for readers.

There are so many Winter Olympics data stories—and some take place well before the opening ceremony, during training. For one week in November, The Wall Street Journal equipped three Team USA hopefuls (a freestyle skier, mogul skier and speedskater) with wearable Fitbit Flex personal-fitness trackers. This mobile data collection-based assessment yielded some fascinating insights about the health, fitness and training regimens of the country’s top athletes. The mogul skier, for instance, burned her maximum 4,399 calories over four hours of activity on November 22, and before a major training day on November 20, she spent almost 11 hours in bed. And this is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, with regard to the data that the Fitbit Flex tracked.

During the games, news outlets and viewers are often keenly interested in the most-watched Olympic data point of all: the medal count. And in the run-up to Sochi, we came across some illuminating statistical models to predict Olympic medal counts. Smithsonian magazine recently highlighted a model developed by data mining company Discovery Corps, Inc. that shifts its focus away from the athletes themselves and

“looks at each country’s geographic area, GDP per capita, total value of exports and latitude to determine how many medals each country will win.”

This year, the model predicted that the U.S. would emerge victorious with 29 medals.

Here are GoSpotCheck, our efforts are firmly rooted in an awareness of data’s power to catalyze meaningful business insights. We certainly feel a profound excitement when the world’s attention turns to such a data-rich celebration as the Winter Olympics!