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Staff (Retired)
Data visualization of funding of 2012 Summer Games

The Guardian, a London newspaper, recently published a blog post, "What's the Real Price of the Olympic Games?" that showed the sources of funding and use of those funds for the 2012 Games. The blog post included an interactive graph, shown below:

A viewer could click on one of the circles to drill down into more detail:

The user can then click on any outer circle to bring it to the top of the inner circle, in essence, mimicking the rotation of a planet around the sun. It’s certainly fun to play with but not very valuable as a data visualization. The use of circles in this way gives you a limited ability to adequately compare sources of funds or expense; it also doesn’t give you any real insight into the data, other than a general impression of the relative size of various sources and uses of the funding.

So, I loaded the data into JMP to see if I could come up with a better way to view and present this information.

I started in Graph Builder (of course) with a high-level view of both the sources and uses of the funds:

The first thing that struck me was how much of the Games is paid for by the taxpayer. I would have thought that Sponsorships and Ticket sales would offset more of the cost. On the “Use” side, I needed more information on what the Central Gov and Locog (London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) used their allocated funds for.

I simply engaged the Data Filter and rearranged my graph like so:

I could now see all of the uses of the funds under the control of the Central Government. I wasn’t sure what “Programme deliver, tax and interest” were, but was glad to see that adequate funds were being spent on Park security.

With the graph arranged in this fashion, I could look at other uses of funds by merely changing the selection in the Data Filter. The venues category showed me this:

While not surprised that the Stadium was the most costly venue, I would not have guessed Aquatics would rank so high. I must learn to better appreciate that sport.

Although the interactive graphs in the Guardian’s blog post looked pretty and were fun to play with, they did little to help me understand the data. If the author wanted to get me to stop and take notice, he succeeded; but getting folks to stay awhile on a Web page and giving them compelling, useful information are also important.

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1 Comment

Sheila B Robinson on the Olympics – Visualized! · AEA365 wrote:

[...] JMP Blog begins with a visualization originally published in the Guardian, and shares the process of transforming it in Data visualization of funding of 2012 Olympics. [...]