Olympics and Statistics

Badminton victors. From left: PV Sindhu, India (Silver), Carolina Marin, Spain (Gold), Nozomi Okuhara, Japan (Bronze)
Womens’ wrestling Bronze winner. Sakshi Malik, India.

The spectacular season of the Olympics is finally over. The world got to witness some great performances by some of the greatest athletes on the planet. Albeit, a majority of the performances left the world in awe.

Everything is fine and dandy. Quite a number of nations managed to bag a plenty of medals, well deserved undoubtedly. And here comes the evaluation of India’s performance in Rio Olympics 2016 — two hard won medals (silver and bronze) added to India’s crown — Kudos to PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik for such a great work!

I strongly believe we could have performed far better than the current scenario. Owing to the population we have, it really isn’t a concern of scarcity of human resource or talent. Then where does the problem lie? The fancy measure, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a country? I guess not.


Though GDP isn’t actually a perfect measure for assessing the “well-being” of a country, a lot of people argue on that. I decided to scrape off some data and visualize what the correspondence actually looks like.

With a simple Google search, I gathered the Olympics ranking of all the countries participated in Rio Olympics 2016. I considered only those whose managed to secure atleast a single medal, for this study. Then for the GDP ranking, I collected data from the World Bank. And then after preprocessing the data and a few lines of Python code, I obtained the figure below.

Combined Statistics — Olympics ranking and GDP ranking

As we can see, the green line which represents the GDP ranking of a country gets all too incoherent with the nearly linear blue line that represents the Olympics ranking of that country. Why? Yes, you guessed it right. These two measures have an almost zero correlation.

I’ve uploaded the Python code as a GitHub Gist, here.


As evident from the above study, it’s high time we start giving more attention to the sports infrastructure and training to the talented athletes of our country instead of giving false excuses, in order to perform even better in the upcoming Olympics.

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