ICAEW chart of the week: Olympinflation

Our chart this week shows how the Summer Olympics has grown from 43 medal events and 241 competitors in Athens in 1896 to 339 medal events attracting 11,326 competitors in the Tokyo Summer Olympics this year.

Olympinflation chart comprising columnsfor number of medal events and a line for competitors:

Medal events: 43 in 1896 to 95 in 1904 to 102 in 1912 to 156 in 1920 to 109 in 1928 to 129 in 1936 to 149 in 1852 to 150 in 1960 to 172 in 1968 to 198 in 1976 to 231 in 1984 to 257 in 1992 to 271 in 1996 to 300 in 200 to 302 in 2008 to 306 in 2016 to 339 in 2021.

Competitors from 241 in 1896 up to 3,089 in 1924 down to 1,332 in 1932 up to 3,936 in 1936 up to 4,955 in 1952 down to 3,314 in 1956 up to 7,134 in 1972 down to 5,179 in 1980 up to 10,651 in 2000 down to 10,625 in 2004 up to 10,942 in 2008 down to 10,768 in 2012 up to 11,326 in 2021.

Our chart this week shows how the Summer Olympics has grown from 43 medal events and 241 competitors in Athens in 1896 to 339 medal events attracting 11,326 competitors in the Tokyo Summer Olympics this year.

The arrival of the Summer Olympics has turned many of us into experts in obscure sports that never normally crossed our minds, as well as thrilling us with seeing the world’s top athletes compete to be the best in the sports we love. The sheer scale of sporting activity is immense as it turns a global audience into athletic couch potatoes over a period of two weeks every four years – or five on this particular occasion with the delay to 2021 because of the pandemic. Despite the absence of spectators, so far the Games have been gripping as tiny margins have determined who gets gold, silver or bronze or who comes home without a medal, but still the privilege of being an Olympian.

Our chart this week illustrates how the Summer Olympics has grown in scale over time. The Tokyo Summer Olympic Games continued the upward path in the number of medal events, with 339 medal events in 50 sporting disciplines from 33 sports and 11,326 competitors from 206 nations. This compares with 43 medal events in 10 disciplines from 9 sports in the first Summer Olympiad in 1896, involving just 241 competitors from 14 nations.

New sports this year include karate, skateboarding, sports climbing, surfing and (the return of) baseball/softball, providing new opportunities for competitors to show their talents to the world, and for the rest of us to add to our fleeting knowledge of what it takes to ride a skateboard in an organised format or the technicalities of riding a wave to score points. These add to the existing sports of aquatics, archery, athletics, badminton, basketball, boxing, canoeing, cycling, equestrian, fencing, field hockey, football, golf, gymnastics, handball, judo, modern pentathlon, rowing, rugby sevens, sailing, shooting, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, triathlon, volleyball, weightlifting and wrestling.

The Olympics will be over all too soon, leaving us bereft and demanding more. Fortunately, the Paralympics will be starting on 24 August with 540 medal events in 22 sports to keep us glued to our screens this summer.

Chart of the week will be taking its customary break during August and will return in September, while the Summer Olympics will hopefully be taking a shorter than usual three-year break to return to schedule with the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics.

This chart was originally published by ICAEW.

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