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 IU Trident Indiana University

Mapping the Winter Olympics with Science On a Sphere 

Project Leads: Karla Vega, Tassie Gniady, Patrick Beard, Eric Wernert, UITS Research Technologies - Research made possible by Science on a Sphere

Advanced Visualization Lab, Visualization and Analytics, UITS Research Technologies

Winter Olympics map
Figure 1. Infographic created by the IU Advanced Visualization Lab with results of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

This dataset was created by students and staff at the Advanced Visualization Lab to highlight the rich history of the Winter Olympic Games. Begun in 1924, the Olympics have grown from 20 participating countries to a record 88 in 2014. Sixteen women competed in the first Games, while 1,050 did so in 2010. Norway is the all-time Winter Olympics medal leader, followed by the United States, but the Soviet Union still ranks fifth, more than 20 years after its dissolution. Three Science on a Sphere (SOS) datasets were released in this series. The first maps historic participation by country and gender. The second maps historic medal counts along with the evolution of events. The third contrasts different ways to scale and represent participation and medal data based on population and economic factors.

The project explored tools and techniques for creating visualizations of quantitative and qualitative data of interest to all ages. The workflows developed in this project will aid future endeavors to disseminate information using spherical displays like the Science On a Sphere, currently used in more than 100 exhibits all over the world

The Winter Olympics, like many other worldwide events, are of broad public interest. Developing workflows that can inform people about such events allows us to reach a global audience through the use of advanced visualization techniques. This work focused on creating visualization for the Science On a Sphere display, which is used in over 100 exhibits all over the world. The physical characteristics and the global distribution of these displays present challenges for data visualization, but also provide opportunities for global outreach and education. This project explored those challenges and opportunities, and established the groundwork for future work. 

IU’s Advanced Visualization Lab is funded through the Office of the Vice President for Information Technology; is a unit of UITS Research Technologies; and is affiliated with the Pervasive Technology Institute. For questions about this project or to request a consultation, please contact

NSF GSS Codes:

Primary Field: Multidisciplinary Studies (980) - Science, Technology, and Society

Secondary Field: Computer Science (401) - Information Science/Studies