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I wonder if the decisions of the US papers to use total medals to order their tables is at all connected to the fact that the US comes top under that system...


@Tom - I think that has to do a lot with it. Olympic rankings has always been about gold medal totals to judge the winning country. What would be the point if a country wins 100 bronze medals to top the medals total? Boston Global is just pandering to the US market.

Jan Schultink

I would actually stick the datalabels right in the colored bars, maybe in a low contrast color, for those who do want the detailed information.


how about this for ranking:

Total = Gold*3 + Silver*2 + Bronze

And you need minimum 5 gold medals to be included in the ranking.


If Australia had been far down the rankings, I would have understood their showing first, second, and third, followed by Australia. But as there was only one more country to add (Germany, at 4th) to make a full tally of the top five, I wonder why they left it out.

Jon Peltier

This is a rare good application for a stacked bar chart. Data labels in the bars, or at least gold medal counts in a column to the left of the chart, would fill it out nicely.

PS. Do you really think the Times was "trying" to inject levity, or was it an unintended consequence of their use of bubbles?


In this context, it's probably worth mentioning that there is an obvious correlation between the population or GDP of a country and the number of medals. A more informative visualization would control for this explanatory factor. See the data at Simon Forsyth's page.


derek: they stuck the chart inside a banner and so there is very limited room. Australia happened to be 5th that day, and was lower in the ranks before.
jan & jon: sticking the total golds on the far right of the chart is an option but falls foul of the sufficiency test, i.e. if all the useful data are written as data labels, why need a chart at all?
jon: the bubble chart in particular is a great example of why this chart type doesn't work
aleks: thanks for the pointer. looks interesting.

Don San

Here is another graphic:



I teach data visualization. Thank you for this blog. It's a great tool for my students.

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