Data Viz Done Right

August 8, 2016

Makeover Monday: Who’s Winning the Summer Olympics?


With the Olympics starting this weekend, I thought we’d take a look at the most classic way that people display Olympic medal counts, as stacked bars. Being an American, I pretty much have only known NBC as the host of the Olympics, so when I went to their website and looked for historical medal counts, I was mortified. This viz is just about as bad as it can get.

What works well?

  • The countries are ordered from most medals to least.
  • There’s cute little actions when you click on the medals.
  • They used appropriate colors for each medal type.

Seriously, that’s all I see that’s any good. This is an incredibly poorly done graphic.

What doesn’t work well?

  • There’s no title.
  • There aren’t any tooltips, so I have no idea how big each bar is; I’m forced to guess.
  • I can only see seven countries at a time, and I can’t even see the name of the seventh country. I mean, who would ever want to compare only the 15th-21st ranked countries?
  • When I click on the scroll button, it scrolls by an increment of 2. Why?
  • Comparisons are nearly impossible with a stacked bar except for the total medal count and bronze.

Here are some of the changes I made:

  • I separated out each medal into a dot plot and chose to show only the top 25.
  • I included a summary next to each country to provide the exact medals counts.
  • I included a mobile view, but in this view I remove this summary for a better visual look.
  • I included informative tooltips.
  • I included a title so you know what the chart is about.
  • I included filters so the user can decide which Olympic games to include.
  • The "sort by" option allows the user to pick the medal count to sort by making comparisons easier.


  1. Hi Andy,

    The sort by (All, gold silver bronze) filter re-orders the countries on the left but doesn't affect the totals on the right,

    this is a great viz though very very informative and clear

    1. Good catch...thanks! I've fixed it. I sorted the countries on a global filter on the filter shelf, and assumed it would carry over to the other sheet since it's a global filter. I was wrong!

  2. Hi Andy,

    Excellent viz, as usual. Just one thing that could be great is to highlight the whole line when we hover on a country. Currently, it's not really convenient to find the total medals from a country, even though the tooltip really helps.

    Also, I noticed that China was only ranked 8th in Total medals (and 6th for gold), and that's true that China's excellence in sports is quite recent. That gave me an idea for a dashboard based on yours:

  3. Hi Andy,

    As I take the MakeoverMonday as a great opportunity to learn I have tried to open your viz to peek how you made those numerical columns on the right (my guess is they are separate worksheets, but could not get them aligned properly) but failed with doing so. Initially, I was shown a message stating I cannot open your workbook because of the older version of Tableau, but after an update to 64bit 9.3.5 (the nevest one available at the moment) I am still getting the same message. Could you share which version of Tableau were you using for this one?


    1. Hi Mateusz. I built this with the 10 beta. It is indeed two sheets, but could probably be done with one. I was doing it quickly and knew two sheets would be fastest.

    2. I see now... Looks like 10 beta is not available for us, mortals... I mean: Tableau Public users. Could you share how you aligned both sheets? I am sure I saw a blog post or your reply to the same question somewhere, but could not find it now.


    3. They are both dual axis charts to make the headers the same size. I chose to turn off the axis marks on the bottom axis of both. On the dots view on the right, I chose to show the axis labels but not the axis marks. That's it!

    4. Thank you and my apologies for bothering you with so silly questions. This post is probably not the best place for that, but it is a no-brainer for you, so maybe you would help me one more time - I will delete those comments right after that.

      I am almost there... I have created dual axes with SUM(0) and added SUM(Total), SUM(Gold) etc. to the Label field, formatted the axes to show only what I want and now I am stuck with alignment of title and the whole graph (white space to the left of the dots). Would you guide me a bit further? I am worried I might have used wrong variable types or something similar. Here is the screen from Tableau:, and the dashboard on Tableau Public :

  4. HI Andy,
    I have just discovered your blog thanks to the Tableau 10 roadshow in Sydney. Loving it. Thank you.

    There is a slight issue with the graph.

    If you look at the totals by pointing to an individual medal for a specific country on the right hand side, the count for the colour is correct but the other two are wrong. This causes the total to change and not match the actual total.

    I am using default settings.

    USA works correctly but Russia does not.

    Thanks again.

    1. Thanks River! I've double checked my tooltips on Desktop and they are correct. Looks like it's a bug. I'll report it.