Everyone loves the Olympics, although a data scientist might dispute such an overly generalised statement. The Russians might not be too happy about it either at the moment.
Be that as it may, the Olympics is enjoyed by hundreds of millions of people around the world, and one of the reasons is that it’s a chance for us to measure and quantify what human beings — specifically the human body — is capable of.
How fast can a human run 100 metres? The data says 9.58 seconds — as achieved by the scarily quick Usain Bolt, who could probably go even faster if he didn’t slow down to showboat just before the finish line.
Jump? How high? Javier Sotomayor is the current world record holder, having cleared the height of about 500 vertically stacked Brazil nuts — or 2.45 metres to be exact.
And the long jump…? Well, you get the picture.
But beyond the headline-grabbing stats which make their way into the record books, there are billions of bits of data generated at the Olympics.
To make it easier for broadcasters and other interested parties, the Olympics organisers have set up the Olympics Data Feed, which any company can use subject to licence agreements and criteria.
A couple of years ago, Atos signed a contract with the
Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) to develop a common data platform. The contract was the first phase of the International Sports Information System (ISIS) project.
The plan was to collate results and athletes’ biographical data in one place and one format. The system was to provide data to major event organisers including the Olympic Games, aiming to improve information services for the media.
It was said to be the first time in the sport sector that such a data platform will be developed.
Yan Noblot, chief operating officer at major events unit, Atos, said at the time of signing the contract: “We are very proud to be at the forefront of this strategic step forward in the sports industry.
“Not only will all athlete data be secure and correctly centralized conforming to one standard, it will also be much more efficient and effective to export the data to major events such as the Olympic Games and other sports client groups.
“Atos is fully committed to delivering its IT services to the sports sector, notably to [International] Federations and being chosen by ASOIF for the first phase of this ground-breaking project strengthens our positioning in this sector.”
Andrew Ryan, executive director at ASOIF, said at the time: “We are delighted to work with Atos on ISIS as they have built a very strong reputation in the sports sector, in particular in their role as the key integrator during the Olympic Games.
“They have a unique knowledge of the Olympic Data Feed (ODF) defined by Atos on behalf of the IOC that we are currently evaluating to see if it can be integrated with a common data exchange protocol for ISIS.
“This project is very significant to the IFs as data becomes increasingly important. Through ISIS we will simultaneously improve the quality and increase the quantity of data available from all 28 summer sports giving access on a single platform to business end users thus increasing potential exposure for all our members.”
The average sports fan may be interested in data in a headline sort of way — mostly records and record-breakers. But increasingly, a new type of spectator is emerging, armed with all the data they need in their smartphones.
As Nigel Tozer, solutions marketing director, EMEA at Commvault, says, this Olympics will be the most data-rich in history.
Tozer says: “The notion of data might seem a long way away from the Olympics in Rio, or the pride of winning a place on the podium. However, these games will undoubtedly be the biggest data Olympics ever.
“Not only will the games create mountains of digital footage and images at higher resolutions than ever before, getting a place on the podium will, in many cases, be more data driven than ever before.
“The British cycling team and others have shown that many incremental changes can be made by measuring and modelling, and this can produce winning results.
“This shouldn’t take anything away from the athletes of course, data is just helping them to be the best they can be; the talent still needs to be there in the first place. The same is true in business, with one major difference; good use of data can help you compete better, and really smart and innovative use of data can be a total game changer.”