Searching for gold during the Games

During the past two weeks, athletes from around the world competed at the Games in Vancouver. While these thousands strove for gold, millions around the world searched for 2010 Winter Olympics, 밴쿠버 동계올림픽 (Korean for "Vancouver Winter Olympics"), and Juegos Olimpicos de Invierno 2010 (Spanish for "2010 Olympic Winter Games") using Google search. Now that the medals have been handed out, we thought we'd take a moment to share how some people from around the world searched for information about the Games.

Norway won 23 medals, including nine gold, and became the first region to win 300 medals at winter events and to win 100 golds. The timeline shows approximate Olympics-related queries from Norway. Although interest was slow to start, it built and repeatedly peaked as Norwegians won in cross-country skiing events: individual (February 17), team (February 22), and men's 50km (February 28); and biathlon events: individual (February 18) and men's team (February 26).

(Click on any image to enlarge)

Japanese athletes won silver and bronze medals in speed skating and figure skating — correspondingly, interest peaked on the days when those competitions took place. And although they ended the Games ranked eighth in the world, チーム青森 ("Team Aomori") generated a lot of queries for カーリング ("curling"), カーリング チーム青森 ("Curling Team Aomori"), and team member 本橋麻里 (Mari Motohashi). Queries also peaked when snowboarder Kazuhiro Kokubo, who had previously caused controversy by wearing sloppy attire, competed in the men's halfpipe event. The timeline also clearly shows the effect of television, with each day's first peak representing the actual time of the event and the second, larger peak occurring in the evening.

Korean athletes won medals in speed skating, short-track speed skating — and one gold medal in Ladies' Figure Skating by Kim Yu-Na. Queries such as 김연아 세계신기록 ("Yu world record"), 김연아 007 ("Yu 007"), and just plain 김연아 ("Kim Yu-Na") increased an order of magnitude as Kim won the Ladies' Short Program on February 23 and ended the Ladies' Free Skating on February 25 with a new world record score of 228.56.

United States
Americans were interested in both the opening ceremonies and the unfortunate death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili. The men's free skating program on February 18, when Evan Lysacek won gold, drew many more searchers than the women's skating program on February 25, in which there was no American medalist. Interest in the unexpectedly good performance of the USA men's hockey team versus Canada (February 21) and against Switzerland (February 24) was exceeded by the exciting Canada v. USA final (February 28), which ended with a Canadian win in overtime. (Incidentally, the success of the men's hockey team also led searchers to look for information about a historic USA win. Searches for Miracle on Ice peaked the day after the USA team beat the Canadian team in the preliminary rounds.) Much of the television coverage in the U.S. was tape-delayed; queries arrived during the events but typically peaked during the evening TV broadcasts.

Canada was not only the host — it also won the most gold medals of any region during any such games. Like the U.S., interest began with the opening ceremonies, and was dominated by men's hockey queries, causing a huge spike during the gold-medal game on February 28 as well as smaller spikes for games against USA (February 21) and Russia (February 24). The final women's hockey game against the U.S. on February 25 also caused a small bump in searches.

Canada took home the most gold medals, while the U.S. won the most medals overall. But where did Games-related searches dominate? To find out, we looked at the regions which had the highest percentage of Games-related searches out of all queries. Perhaps not surprisingly, Canadians were more than twice as likely to search for "Vancouver 2010", "medal count," or their favorite athletes as their southern neighbors, which were the second most likely to make Games-related queries. And although the Netherlands was not a leader in the medals count, its citizens' Games-related query proportion was the third highest in the world.

And finally, the Games wouldn't be the same without the stars — the athletes. The most searched-for individual gold medal-winning athletes were:
1. Shaun White (U.S. men's halfpipe)
2. 김연아 (Kim Yu-Na; Korea ladies' figure skating)
3. Lindsey Vonn (U.S. ladies' downhill Alpine skiing)
4. Sven Kramer (Netherlands men's 5000m speed skating)
5. Evan Lysacek (U.S. men's figure skating)

We hope you had a great time watching — and searching for info about — the Games. We'll see you again in a few years!