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The Olympic and Paralympic Games Index

Olympic and Paralympic Games
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The Olympic and Paralympic Games are the perfect mix of competition and entertainment, capturing the attention of people around the world. These events show athletes' incredible dedication and skill as they represent their nations.

By analysing data from recent Games, spanning the Summer and Winter Games from London 2012 to Beijing 2022, Slingo has explored the most famous athletes and their online presence, the average ages of medallists across different sports, and the disparity in media coverage between the Olympics and Paralympics.

Which Olympic and Paralympic Games are most popular on social media?

most popular Olympic and Paralympic Games

The Olympic and Paralympic Games are the world's most widely celebrated sporting events, bringing together athletes from around the globe to compete at the highest level. In recent years, these Games have also become a significant presence on social media platforms, allowing fans and enthusiasts to engage with the events in real time.

We’ve analysed the number of Instagram and TikTok posts discussing recent Games, from London to Beijing, to uncover the most popular ones on social media.

The Rio de Janeiro 2016 Games generated the highest number of combined Instagram and TikTok posts, with over 2.8 million posts using hashtags related to the event shared across both platforms. Of these, 96.3% were from Instagram, at 2.7 million.

The Tokyo 2020 Games, held in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, also saw extensive social media activity, with over 2.1 million Instagram posts and 71,800 TikTok posts.

Although TikTok wasn’t launched until 2016, there has still been plenty of conversation about earlier Games on the app. Sochi 2014 and London 2012 each have over 1,000 posts on the app, showing clips of the opening ceremonies, different sporting events, and even edits of famous athletes who competed.

People are already posting about the upcoming games in Paris, too, with the event being tagged on Instagram 543,130 times and on TikTok 67,500 times!

The most watched Olympic and Paralympic opening ceremonies

most watched Olympic and Paralympic opening ceremonies

The opening ceremonies of the Olympic and Paralympic Games attract viewers from around the world. The host nations work hard to set the tone for the Games, combining culture and sport.

But which ceremonies have people gone back to watch on YouTube the most?

Among the recent games, the London 2012 opening ceremony stands out as the most viewed on YouTube, with an impressive 19 million views. Directed by Danny Boyle, London 2012 featured the now iconic scene of Queen Elizabeth II with James Bond actor Daniel Craig.

After London, the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Games opening ceremony was the most watched, with 7.7 million views on YouTube. Held at the Maracanã Stadium, the ceremony featured various cultural dances, lively music, and many colourful costumes.

The Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics' opening ceremony, with 2.2 million views, was the third-highest-viewed in recent Games history. It blended traditional Korean elements with modern technology — the highlight for many being an impressive drone light display.

The most famous Olympians online

most famous Olympians online

most famous Olympians online table

We've found the most famous Olympians online by looking at the most successful athletes — those who have won six or more medals — and their Instagram and X followers alongside average Google searches for their name. 

1. Michael Phelps | 10 out of 10

Michael Phelps, the American swimmer, is in first place among the most followed and searched Olympic athletes. He has 3.4 million Instagram followers and 1.8 million X (Twitter) followers, totalling 5.2 million combined social media followers. This is on top of 550,000 monthly searches on average.

It’s no wonder people are so interested in Phelps, either. He currently holds the record for the most Olympic gold medals won by an individual and has cemented his status as one of the greatest athletes ever.

2. Allyson Felix | 9.35 out of 10

The second most popular is Allyson Felix, another American Olympian. She’s a retired track and field athlete who competed in 100 metres, 200 metres, and 400 metres and won 11 medals. 

Over 59% of her 1.8 million followers come from Instagram (1.1 million), while the rest are on X (736,300). It’s not just on social media that people keep up with her online, though — there is also an average of 60,500 searches for her name each month. 

3. Ryan Lochte and Kate Ledecky | 9.03 out of 10

It’s not just another two Olympians from the USA in joint third place; they’re also both swimmers. Ryan Lochte and Kate Ledecky have a combined 22 medals and have previously competed in events such as the 200m backstroke, 200m relay, and 800m freestyle.

While Ledecky is searched more each month on average (165,000 vs 49,500), Lochte has nearly a million more followers across Instagram and X. 

The most popular Paralympians online

most popular Paralympians online

most popular Paralympians online table

We've uncovered the most-followed athletes online after looking at the same metrics for the most successful Paralympians (10 or more medals). 

1. Danial Dias | 9.11 out of 10

Daniel Dias is the most popular Paralympian online among those who have won 10 or more medals. His success spans multiple Games, from Beijing 2008 to Tokyo 2020, when the Brazilian swimmer won 27 medals, including 14 gold. 

He’s not just successful in the Games, either. He has 128,000 Instagram followers and 14,000 X followers, totalling 142,000 combined followers tracking his career. People aren’t just keeping up with his socials, either. There are also an average of 9,900 searches each month for his name. 

2. Jessica Long | 8.89 out of 10

Jessica Long is the second most popular, with 100,000 Instagram followers, 21,400 X followers (39,000), and 8,100 monthly searches. The American swimmer has won 23 Paralympic medals, including 13 golds.

Her Paralympic journey began at the 2004 Athens Games, where she was just 12 years old and won three gold medals in the 100m freestyle, 400m freestyle, and 4 × 100 m freestyle relay. 

3. Sarah Storey | 8.22 out of 10 

Sarah Storey is the third most popular Paralympian on Instagram (9,367) and X (39,000). Fans are also keeping tabs on her through searching an average of 3,600 times a month on Google.

The British athlete is one of the most versatile, competing in swimming and cycling events. As a swimmer, she won five Paralympic golds. She then switched to cycling and won 17 Paralympic gold medals, making her one of the most decorated Paralympians ever.

What is the average age of medallists in Olympic sports?

Olympic sports medallists average age

We’ve examined some of the most popular Olympic sports and the most recent podium sitters to determine the average age of medallists in each one.

There are significant differences in the average ages of male and female medallists in certain Olympic sports. The average male medallist in golf was 33.7 years old, but the average female medallist was much younger at 23 years old. Male medallists in shooting and biathlon events tended to be younger than female medallists on average as well.

An interesting point is that the average age of female medallists in skateboarding events was just 14—nine years younger than the male medallists, who were 23. In the 2020 games, Momiji Nishiya claimed gold at just 13, followed by Rayssa Leal (13) and Funa Nakayama (16).

What is the average age of medallists in Paralympic sports?

Paralympic sports medallists average age

Similar to the Olympics, there were some notable differences in the average ages of male and female Paralympic medallists across different sports. In the triathlon, the average age of male medallists was 38.3, while female medallists averaged 33.3.

While female medallists tend to be younger in most sports studied, in cycling's C5 individual pursuit event, the average female medallist at 37 years old was significantly older than the average male medallist at 27.7 years.

The media coverage of the Olympics vs Paralympics

Olympics vs Paralympics media coverage

Since 2008, the Paralympics have been held following the Olympic Games, and athletes have used the same sporting venues and accommodations. However, the media coverage is different.

When looking for articles using keywords such as ‘Rio Olympics’ and comparing this to ‘Rio Paralympics’ or ‘2016 Paralympics’, we found over 159% fewer online articles about the Paralympic Games.

The difference is even more significant for the Sochi 2014 Games when 194% more articles were about the Olympics than the Paralympics.

Do male and female athletes receive the same amount of coverage?

male and female athletes amount of coverage

The Rep Project found that during the first week of the Beijing Winter Olympics, over half (54.8%) of the athletes shown during primetime media coverage were women. This is consistent with previous Olympic Games, such as London 2012, where female athletes made up 55% of primetime coverage and 58% in Rio de Janeiro 2016.

However, only 41.1% of actual screen time, which analysed second-by-second time received by athletes (AKA “face time”), was dedicated to women in Beijing 2022. Over 58% of “face time” coverage showed male athletes.

Methodology

Using official websites, we created a seed list of successful Olympians and Paralympians by compiling a list of athletes with six or more medals.

We then used Google Ads Keyword Planner to find the average monthly searches for each athlete (from May 2023 to April 2024) and social media followers sourced from Instagram and X.

We sourced the most watched opening ceremonies for the most recent six Olympic games using each opening ceremony's full YouTube video posted on the official Olympics channel.

We found the most popular Olympics on social media, looking at the number of hashtagged posts for each of the most recent six Olympics and Paralympics games on Instagram and TikTok.

We sourced the most recent medallists and ages for Olympic and Paralympic sports using https://olympics.com/en/sports/ and https://www.paralympic.org/sports.

We used Google News to find the media coverage of the Olympic Games vs Paralympic Games, revealing the number of news articles written using keywords such as 'Beijing Olympics 2022' vs 'Beijing Paralympics 2022'.

Using individual stadium websites, we sourced the main stadium capacity for the most recent six Olympic and Paralympic games.

We used The Rep Project to find the face-time coverage of male and female athletes in the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games.

All data was collected on 30/05/2024 and is correct as of then.


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