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  • Olympedia Enables Encyclopedism of Olympism


    An array of surprises, some welcome, others not so much, continue their blitz across 2020.

    The Olympedia search engine
    On the latter front as related to the wide world of sports, the pandemic-inspired postponement of Tokyo 2020 was a tough pill to swallow.

    On the former, brighter side, May 27 marked the arrival of an exceedingly thorough online tool certain to assist with countless Olympic research projects, sports journalist citations and fan searches for their favorite athletes or Olympiads.

    Now available online, feast your eyes on, a new directory of Games statistics compiled by 21 Olympism-inspired encyclopedists.

    This may not be the first comprehensive assemblage of such Olympic detail but it very well be the biggest and most accessible in digital format.

    Bonus: Olympedia is free!

    The group's ringleader, past International Society of Olympic Historians (ISOH) President Bill Mallon, described their efforts in a blog post announcing Olympedia's ready-for-prime-time debut, as well as their team name.

    "The Olympedia research site contains the profiles and results of all Olympic athletes and informative descriptions about the Games, events, venues, and much more," stated Mallon. "It is the most comprehensive database about the Olympic Games and is the result of many years of work by a list of Olympic historians and statisticians called the OlyMADmen."

    I wrote to Dr. Mallon with three questions inspired by his post:

    For how many years was the OlyMADmen process underway?

    How many combined man hours went into the project (an Olympian feat of research)?

    At what stage did the Olympedia team receive a blessing of IOC approval, and how much time from approval to this week's launch?

    BIll Mallon (ATR)
    Mallon quickly responded stating his own Olympic research journey started at a library in Teaneck, N.J., while on a summer holiday with family during the summer of 1964.

    Things started getting serious with the arrival of personal computers (1980s) and during the latter 1990s as he and others forged collaborations with fellow historians both stateside and abroad.

    As for the team's combined time investment, "We actually estimated the amount of work in terms of man-years … because it's so hard to estimate," stated Mallon. "We came up with a number: 180."

    Mallon added the OlyMADmen began a more formal collaboration with the IOC in early 2016, with permission only recently granted to open Olympedia online for anyone to use, describing the nonprofit's team members as "responsive and good to work with."

    So, how may site visitors extract data or Games results they seek from Olympedia?

    From the home page, it's easy to select searches by athlete, result or sports discipline and Olympiad. Simply type in a name or other query and press "GO."

    Across the header of the home page, Olympedia also offers easy clicks by nation, as well as pulldown menus for IOC-centric data or statistics with subcategories such as medal counts, numerous records or athlete bio data.

    Say you want to know how many athletes competed while pregnant. Olympedia not only lists them, but also shares whether the athlete knew of their pregnancy while competing.

    Which athletes -- like the one who put Sean Connery out of commission for several days -- appeared in feature films?

    Answer: weightlifting silver medalist Harold "Oddjob" Sakata, who is Olympedia athlete No. 57017, just 10 digits away from "Goldfinger" 007.

    While on a Hollywood kick, if one wants to know the flagbearers at an Opening Ceremony -- like, say, Stephen Spielberg, Donald Sutherland or Susan Sarandon -- use the Games pulldown menu.

    There are also sections for Olympic bid city votes, recipients of the Olympic Order, dozens of types of Olympian lists, torchbearers, medal counts -- many rabbit holes for exploration. I know of at least one ISOH member who will be looking for athletes or teams and team members who achieved a three-peat, four-peat or more-peat on Olympic soil.

    Each search result yields not only the information one seeks but also a five-ringed fun fact under the banner "Did You Know?" which appears at the base of the screen. My favorite so far regarded six Dutch archers whose name appeared in Paris 1900 newspaper coverage as competitors in an "unknown" event.

    Consider me thoroughly impressed and pleased by the news of Olympedia, the best Games-related surprise of the last three months.

    Written by Nicholas Wolaver

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