Before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, we collected the competition results of thousands of Olympic champions in 104 sports events over 120 years. We set the championship performance of each sport when it first entered the Olympics as a starting value, then plotted the performance curves of the champions in each sport over the years to see the limits of human beings.
With the combination of videos, 3D animation, and data visualization, this project successfully simulated the scenes when Olympic champions competed against each other in the same field and presented the breakthroughs and limitations of human physical ability.
The Tokyo Olympics was held in the shadow of Covid-19. The virus isolated us physically but may never separate us emotionally. Over the past 120 years, human beings have been setting new records by pushing the limits constantly. We have never stopped striving to be faster, higher, and stronger. And this is the charm of sports: every breakthrough may update our definitions of limits and bring more expectations for the future.
The project has also received high praise from peers, winning the Gold Award for “Best Mobile Interaction Design” in the 2021 China Data Content Competition.
C4D: Combing video of sports events with 3D scenes, to generate the effects of Olympic champions competing in the same field; building the transition between the 3D scenes and the curves of championship results.
D3.js: Plotting curves to visualize the championship results of 104 sports over 120 years; adding effects of transition and graphic interactions.
Python: Crawling, cleaning, and analyzing the championship results of 104 events in three major categories: track and field, swimming, and shooting at the Olympic Games from 1896 to 2016; converting the original competition results of different sports to index data.
Vue: Building web pages with reusable components.
What was the hardest part of this project?
The hardest part of the project was to integrate complicated data with visualization and interactive multimedia.
We collected our data from Olympedia. But for different sports, the data format varied. So we had to use Python to crawl the data in each webpage of 104 sports and clean the data afterward. Then another obstacle popped out: how to compare the competition results of different sports, for some were competing for speed, others might for distances; there were too many standards. We eventually decided to convert all the results into index data that could be quantified together.
To show a comprehensive picture of what has been achieved in the Olympics for 120 years, we came up with the idea of having the Olympic champions compete together. We started the project with a long shot to explain the background of the project. Then we combined videos of sports events, 3D scenes, and data visualization to present the championship results of 104 sports over the century.
What can others learn from this project?
The idea of having Olympic Champions over 120 years to compete together, actually evolved from our previous projects. Therefore, we reviewed our past work to identify weak points and find ways to improve. That’s why we ended up refining the storyline by filling it with more vivid examples while keeping the original concept intact. And in the content creation process, we also utilized more cutting-edge web technologies to improve the user experience.
We think this might give other journalists the idea that we don’t really need to start a project from scratch every time, especially with a cyclical topic like the Olympics; sometimes by slowing down and looking back at what we’ve done, we might find unexpected treasures.