Olympic World Records

by John Johnson

Following Olympic coverage can make it seem like new records are being set all the time. To see how true this is and (more importantly) to practice building interactive graphs, I gathered all of the 156 track and field world records listed by International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

The simple scatterplot below displays the number of currently standing world records set during each year since 1977.


This step chart shows the above information in a different way. I have broken out the cumulative percent of existing records set by each year for men and women. I suspected that women would have set more records than men in recent years as women’s sports grow in popularity around the world, but the data does not support this hypothesis. Click the graph and use the tooltip to view detailed information. As you can see, half of current track and field records were set before 2003.

Cumulative Percent of Records Set by Year, Gender


This final chart displays the individual record-setting events—arranged along the y-axis in no particular order. Click the graph and use the tooltip feature to view details.

Individual Titles by Year (Tooltip details)

The first chart was produced in RStudio using ggplot2. The last two charts were first built with ggplot2, with the interactive features added using plot.ly. Plotly for R is an open-source, free, and self-hosted resource, which can be used entirely offline. Check it out!