• August 8, 2016

Gold-Medal Metrics: Big Data Competes at the Summer Games

Analytics help athletes and teams perform better to win big.

Around the world, all eyes are focused on Rio de Janeiro now that the 2016 Summer Olympics are officially underway. And while the athleticism and sportsmanship of the more than 11,000 athletes participating is certainly front-page news, that’s not the only story coming out of Rio. Big Data is also playing a big role in the city and the lives of many of the athletes competing there.

While the 2012 summer games in London are widely cited as being the first to embrace Big Data, four years on they’re set to be overshadowed in Rio. That’s because maturing technologies and an explosion in data are setting the stage for much greater precision, reliability, and insight than ever before.

Data From Start to Finish

Many nations tapped into the power of Big Data and analytics when deciding which athletes to send to Rio. By analyzing promising athletes’ performance data against vast amounts of historic data, for example, they could make informed decisions about how to best allocate resources and which athletes had the greatest potential to bring home medals. Sports analytics experts even published data-driven predictions about how medal counts might tally long before the games even started.

Savvy athletes are using analytics to help enhance their performance as well. In 2012, the U.S. women’s cycling team earned silver medals thanks in part to their ability to optimize their performance using insights gleaned from analyzing data about their performance, diet, training intensity, environment, and sleep patterns. In Rio de Janeiro, similar techniques will be employed in boxing, sailing, cycling, and just about every sport in between.

Sensors Abound at the Games

Venues and equipment across Rio have been outfitted with more sensors than ever before, to capture a treasure trove of data. In fact $2.25 billion (almost 20 percent of the budget for the games) has been allocated to implementing IT and telecommunications solutions.

On the golf course, for example, new scoreboards will use radar measurement systems to transmit real-time data about players’ stroke speed and height. At the taekwondo competitions, competitors will be outfitted with protective gear containing delicate sensors designed to detect contact and help guarantee fair and accurate scoring. Meanwhile, in the city’s oceans and rivers, kayakers and canoers will rely on sensors in their equipment for critical information about currents and other water conditions.

Going for the Big Data Win

The games are an amazing event that brings the world together to celebrate athletic achievement. It’s a data-driven world, however, and athletes’ ability to perform at their peak hinges on their ability to derive critical insights from the data they can collect. Whether you’re on the tennis court or in the boardroom, that’s a valuable lesson to learn from.

Like this story? For inspiration on fully leveraging your data, read more about accelerating business outcomes with analytics