The Olympics Data Drop

The Olympic Games are a spectacle of a unique scale, drawing competitors from over 200 nations and featuring top athletic talent that boggles the mind. As one of the most-watched sporting events worldwide, the Olympics are expected to draw 4 billion viewers (against the worldwide population of 7 billion people). Consider now what goes on behind the scenes to make the Games a reality: all the planning, logistics, construction, crowd control, publicity, and so on. Think about all the technology-related challenges the Olympics presents, and how much data is likely to be generated thanks to such a massive event. These are the types of problems the overseeing officials in London have to concern themselves with:

-Getting accurate, real-time (or very close to it) results data out to the media and the Internet.

-Ensuring the security of official Olympics data to protect it from getting hacked, attacked, or breaking down.

-Wiring London up so that the media can transmit their data, athletes have internet access, and attendees are hooked in as well.

The numbers don’t lie: the 2012 London Olympics are expected to produce almost one third more data than their 2008 counterpart in Beijing. In fact, there were more tweets about the 2012 Games in a single day the week before they started than there were during the entire 2008 Games in Beijing.

To deal with the IT needs of the Games, 9,500 computers, 900 servers, and 3,500 technicians have been marshaled. Patrick Adiba, the executive vice president of Atos, a company managing the technology-related needs of the Games, predicted that there’ll be about 8 billion Internet-connected devices by the time the Games start.

This is also the most socially connected Games ever, as mobile and social have seen dramatic growth since 2008: smartphones have grown by 456%, Facebook accounts increased ninefold, and Twitter accounts number 300 million now versus less than 1 million in 2008. The London Games are expected to be “the most closely scrutinized and written about in history” thanks to the amped-up social media usage of fans and athletes. With Facebook, Twitter, and a number of other social venues launching dedicated Olympics hubs, the 2012 Games can rightfully be called the first true “Social Olympics.”

We can mine all of this data—the official data coming from the Olympics, and all the buzz surrounding it—for a myriad of insights into the games. People did similar things on a smaller scale with the Euro Cup. The Olympics offer up a rare opportunity to put our data toolbox to use and think carefully about how best to collect, analyze, and display data. As the Olympics get under way, look to the Metamarkets blog for exciting and surprising findings around this year’s Olympics. We’ll be exploring tweets around the Olympics to discover where people are linking, who the top tweeters are, where people are tweeting from, and more. Here’s a sneak peek of what we can take a look at:

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This is a 1% sample of all tweets made in the last week with hashtag #olympics or #london2012. These tweets saw a prominent spike on Friday, July 27th–right when the opening ceremonies were getting underway, of course. Stay tuned for more insights and visualizations as the Games progress and the tweets flow in!

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