Rio Olympics: Why India was not a rank disaster

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India’s largest-ever squad to an Olympics, of 117, returned with two medals in Rio 2016, against six in London 2012. At the pinnacle of world sports, medals are one barometer of sporting performance. Another is standings: where a sportsperson finished vis-à-vis the competition. This is especially relevant for a fledgling sporting nation like India.

The data interactive below maps standings of Indian sportspersons in Rio 2016, and compares it to the previous five Olympics, dating back to the 1996 Atlanta Games, when India sent a 49-member squad and Leander Paes in tennis was the sole medal winner.

Beyond the medals, 2016 is not the unqualified catastrophe it is made out to be. At an overall level, the number of top 10 finishes fell from 28 in 2012 to 21 in 2016. But this was largely on account of just two sports: boxing and tennis. Similarly, between ranks 11 and 20, the count fell from 28 to 24, but the losses are scattered across sports (archery and rowing) and sprinkled with the occasional gain (wrestling and tennis).

Prominent sports in which Indians competed can be placed in three buckets.

Clear advances

There was badminton, which delivered a medal and demonstrated depth. There was Dipa Karmakar: the first Indian gymnast at the Olympics since 1964, the first Indian women ever and who missed a medal by not much.

Clear retreats

The biggest losses were registered in boxing: the number of top 10 finishes dropped from six in 2012 to two. There was table tennis, where all four Indians lost in the first round. There was weightlifting, where India is down from a medal and two more top 20 finishes in 2000 to just one top 20 finish in 2016.

Close to call

Most sports were close to call, which runs contrary to the narrative of Rio being a disaster for India. Among the large-squad sports, shooting returned two fewer medals than 2012, but had more performances in the top 10 (4 versus 3) and the same number of performance in the top 20 (11).

In athletics, the number of top-20 performances fell from six in 2012 to four in 2016, but there was a cluster of nine athletes who finished between 20 and 35 (against five in 2012). In tennis, India’s mixed doubles team came closer to a medal than in the previous two Olympics, but the rest of the squad made earlier exits. In archery, fewer Indian competed, but posted better overall results.

Use the interactive below to see how India has fared in 13 sports in the last six Olympics.


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Chart of the Day | PV Sindhu was the tallest woman in the Rio singles draw

Rarely does an Indian make the top of a listing that defines the element of the physical in a sport. An Indian woman, even rarer. PV Sindhu not only won the silver medal in the women’s singles badminton event at the 2016 Rio Olympics, she went one better in another listing. According to data of 37 players available on the official website of the Rio Games, 21-year-old Sindhu was the tallest player in the women’s badminton singles draw: standing in at 1.79 centimetres. To put this into some context, Saina Nehwal was listed at number 23 in the height table, at 1.65 metres. But she also weighed the same as Sindhu.

To see where 107 Indian sportspersons who participated at Rio compared against their rivals from other countries in the height-weight matrix, check out this data interactive we did for Mint.

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News in Numbers, Aug 18, 2016: Ola shuts down TaxiForSure, India’s first medal at Rio…

Sakshi Malik creates history at the Rio Olympics 2016. She won the bronze medal in the 58 kg women’s freestyle wrestling category on Wednesday. With this, India gets its 25th medal at the Olympic Games. It first participated in the Games in 1900.

Read more about Malik’s win and the firsts that have come along with her victory. This, and four other numbers, make up today’s edition.

As always, we appreciate suggestions and feedback. Look forward to hearing from you.


What is it? The number of jobs cab-hailing aggregator Ola will lay off as a result of shutting down TaxiForSure (TFS) it acquired 18 months ago.

Why is it important? The layoffs can cut costs by nearly Rs 30 crore a month, according to reports. Ola has been trying to raise funds and battle with cash-rich Uber, which can now devote more time and resources to India after having sold its China operations to Didi Chuxing. Over the last few months, Ola was said to be integrating some of TFS teams such as human resources and tech while keeping the drivers and call centre teams separate.

Tell me more: Ola had acquired TFS for $200 million last year to fend off competition and up its strength against Uber. It had initially said it would manage TFS as a separate brand. Nearly 90% of the employees being laid off belong to operations such as call centres, driver relations and business development units.


730 million

What is it? The estimated number of Internet users in India by 2020, according to a report.

Why is it important? Three-fourth of the new user growth is expected to be from rural areas and a similar percentage of people is expected to consume data in local languages. These estimates, if true, is a pointer for the government and businesses to focus their digital initiatives or expansions more towards the countryside and also, will help provide opportunities for those in the rural areas. There were 350 million Internet users at the end of 2015.

Tell me more: The report by Nasscom in association with Akamai Technologies also predicts that online shopping would account for two-thirds of the e-commerce market by 2020 (with fashion and lifestyle to overtake the consumer electronics segment) and half of the travel transactions would be done online.



What is it? The number of Indian women athletes who have clinched a medal at the Olympics with the latest being Sakshi Malik who won a bronze in the 58 kg women’s freestyle wrestling category on Wednesday.

Why is it important? She is the first woman wrestler from India to have won a medal at the Olympics and overall, hers is the country’s fifth wrestling medal. Malik’s win also ended India’s 11-day wait to win a medal at the Rio Olympics 2016. In all, India has now won 25 medals at the Olympic Games over the years.

Tell me more: The other Indian women athletes to have won a medal are: weightlifter Karnam Malleshwari in 2000, boxer MC Mary Kom and shuttler Saina Nehwal in 2012.


Rs 4,566.6 crore

What is it? The total amount pharmaceutical companies owe the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) for charging higher prices than those prescribed by the government.

Why is it important? Over 80% of the amount is under litigation and just around 8% of the total amount demanded (for overcharging) has been recovered by the NPPA so far (since August 1997). This highlights the difficulty of price control, and the need for better methods to ensure pharma companies follow regulations.

Tell me more: The prices of essential medicines are fixed by the NPPA from time to time and the manufacturers who are found to be overcharging are to pay the overcharged amount along with interest under the Drugs (Price Control) Order, 2013.


1.96 crore

What is it? The number of private vehicles registered in 2015. That’s nearly 53,720 per day.

Why is it important? It touched an all-time high last year and is a huge jump from over two decades ago (less than 10 lakh until 1993). With an increase in population and disposable incomes and inefficient public transport systems, this trend is likely to continue. Underlines the importance of devising strategies for infrastructure and public transport to avoid further congestion in the urban areas.

Tell me more: Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka top the charts in terms of vehicle registrations, which together account for nearly a third of the total private vehicle registrations in the country.

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Chart of the Day | How Usain Bolt raised the bar

On Monday, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt ran 100m in 9.81 seconds to win a gold at Rio Olympics and to become the first athlete to win three Olympic 100m titles.

Bolt’s achievement is not just about winning the gold. He literally reset our expectations. To see how, take a look at the chart below. If you draw a straight line connecting Bob Hayes‘ 1964 record of running the 100m at 10.06 seconds to Leroy Burrell’s 1994 record (9.85 seconds) and compare it with a line tracing actual records, you will notice that they start diverging at one point – in 2002.

There should be nothing surprising about it. Humans can get physically better only upto some point, after which the gains are very, very marginal. Men’s 100m record progression seemed to go that way too, till Usain Bolt descended on the scene. In 2008, he broke record twice – running 100m in 9.72s in May and 9.69 in August. And year later, on this day seven years ago, at Berlin, Bolt ran 100m in 9.58 seconds. That’s where the record stands now.

If you are interested in the science behind his sprint, check out the links here and here.

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