Big data & olympics
By Gemma Morris
9th August 2016

4 years ago the Olympics were held in London and were dubbed the first ‘big data Olympics’. Over the course of the event 15 terabytes of data were collected every day from fans around the world. As the Olympics are well underway in Rio and with $1.5 billion of the budget being spent on IT the amount of data being collected is sure to surpass that of London.

The data that will be collected will be generated from hundreds of places, including sensors, social media (such as tweets) and even the athletes.


Big data will be used by athletes across the world to monitor and measure their performance. By tracking how they perform in practise and competitions they will know where to improve. In 2015 the US women’s Olympic cycling team started a new analytics regime to track their sleeping patterns, diet, environment and training to better improve themselves. The analytics allows them to focus on particular areas where each athlete may be struggling and be able to improve individually and as a team.


New sensors, technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) will allow for more accuracy in each sport. This year in the swimming events sensors are being placed underwater which will be able to update lap counts as soon as the swimmer touches the wall. Sensors can also allow for better accuracy when runners cross the finish line, allowing the time to stop as soon as a racer hits the finish line. These sensors can really play a big part in determining results and gaining an idea of an athlete’s position. Not only do the sensors give the athletes more accuracy but it ensures the data created is kept up-to-date, giving the audience across the world real-time, accurate results.


As always predictions are made around sporting events. One company, Gracenote, has created a virtual medal table which predicts how many medals each country will receive, as well as individual athletes. The table looks at the most up-to-date analytics, athlete performance and any news surrounding the event. When the event comes to an end it will interesting to see if this up-to-date virtual medal table will have predicted the games correctly.

The Rio Olympics is set to be to most data driven sporting event yet but with new technological advances, such as virtual reality (VR) the next Olympics in four years’ time are going to be even bigger and using, and creating, a lot more data! 

What do you think is the best use of big data in the Olympics? Let us know in the comments below.

[New Whitepaper] Adrift on a sea of data: The state of data 2016. Download here


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