Britain's Olympians - But where are they from?

A contagious epidemic is at large in GB right now. Symptoms include goosebumps, a righteous sense of pride in one's nationality and an itching sensation that can only be cured by dusting off the old running boots. You've guessed it, Olympic fever is well and truly in full swing.

So with our cream of the crop off to Brazil representing us in everything from boxing to gymnastics, you will no doubt be left wondering where all these talented British Olympians came from. I mean, surely they grew up in the same towns and cities as us right? Hmm maybe… maybe not.

As the UK’s Number One Address Experts we thought we would be best placed to dive into the data and find out. The question is, after analysing every postcode of over 3000 athletes from across nine different Olympic tournaments, did we find a pattern in what makes a Great British Olympian? Let’s find out…

The below map plots out all the birthplaces of team GB for all the years listed below. Use the navigation menu (top left) to filter between the years.

1896 Athens Olympics

1896 Olympics logo

As the first Olympic games of the modern era, the 1896 games held in Athens is celebrated as a huge success.  It brought more nations together for the celebration of sport than the world had ever seen before. As for Team GB, the tournament wasn't an overwhelming success. Bringing home only seven medals, Britain’s hopeful athletes didn't put on the overwhelming winning performance that we're expecting to see in Rio. So where did these Olympians come from? Well, with the issue of having to use data that only goes so far back in time; finding the accurate birthplaces of athletes born such a long time ago has been a struggle. Even so, we did find enough data to make some interesting comparisons later.

1896 Team GB

Some interesting findings...

  • Over 50% of Team GB Athletes competing in the 1896 Olympic Games were born outside of the UK.
  • 100% of Team GB’s Gold Medals were won by athletes born outside of the UK.

1900 Paris Olympics

1900 Olympics

With the tournament much closer to home, four more years to train and more coverage of the games, the performance by British athletes at the 1900 Paris Olympics was much more like the resounding success we associate with Team GB today. Dominating in cricket, football and sailing, Team GB managed to bring home 15 gold medals and 30 medals in total. As for the the birthplace of these athletes, there is unsurprisingly a clear pattern emerging of Team GB athletes being born into historically richer areas of the UK. Areas like Edinburgh in Scotland, Wimbledon in London and Barnstaple in Devon seemed to put forward an abnormally large number of British Olympians considering their population size.

1900 Team GB

Some interesting findings...

  • Scotland contribute 6.09% of athletes but won 16.66% of the Team GB Gold Medals
  • Athletes from London won 50% more medals than athletes from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

1908 London Olympics

1908 Olympics logo

There may be a 104 year difference between Britain's first Olympic Games in 1908 and our third attempt at hosting the games in 2012, but if there is one similarity it would have to be our commitment to success on home soil. Being our most successful to date, the Team of 1908 managed to take 146 of the medals on offer with 56 of those medals being Gold. As for the birthplace of these athletes, this is the first Olympics where we start to see a slight swing from the richer areas of Great Britain to poorer areas and also the first time we see Welsh athletes represent Great Britain.

1908 Team GB

Some interesting findings...

  • Scotland contribute 8.27% of athletes but won 9.03% of the Team GB Gold Medals
  • 14.13% of Team GB and 9.03% of Team GB Medals are born outside of the United Kingdom
  • This was the first time an athlete born in Wales or Northern Ireland represented Great Britain at the Olympics


1956 Melbourne Olympics

1956 Olympics logo

Moving on to more recent times we thought it would be interesting to get a birthplace perspective on a timeline. Starting with the Melbourne games here we will look at the British athletes who took part in the 1956 Olympics, the 1960 Olympics and finally the 1964 Olympics. Unfortunately, again the data is either missing or deemed inaccurate for a full Team GB analysis, but we did gather some impressive statistics that are worthy of further comparison and analysis.

1956 Team GB

Some interesting findings...

  • Scotland contribute 3.57% of athletes but won 28.57% of the Team GB Gold Medals.
  • Athletes born outside of the UK won 14.28% of Team GB’s Gold Medals.

1960 Rome Olympics

1960 Olympics logo

Just 21 years after the outbreak of World War II the 1960 Olympics was the third Olympics to be played out on European soil since the war.  Set in Rome the games would be seen as a commitment to continued peace in the region and was celebrated as an example of European countries working together. As for Team GB, whether we were giving the German team a chance or simply preparing ourselves for World Cup glory in six years' time, British athletes put on one of the poorest performances in our Olympic history. Taking home a meagre 20 medals between them, where did these British Olympians come from?

1960 Team GB

Some interesting findings...

  • Athletes born in London delivered 50% of Team GB’s Gold Medals.
  • Contributing only 2.83% of Athletes to the 1960 Olympics Wales managed to bring home 7.14% of the Medals.

1964 Tokyo Olympics

1964 Olympics logo 

Swinging round to the 1964 Olympics this would be Tokyo's chance to finally host the games after their first Olympics had to be cancelled due to the outbreak of war. Only 19 years after the end of World War II there was serious concern over Tokyo's capability to host the games, but the technological geniuses pulled off one of the best. As for Team GB, this was to be another lean Olympics in terms of medals. Only managing to bring home 18 medals in total, the British athletes didn't live up to the high expectation placed on them at the time.

1964 Team GB

Some interesting findings...
  • Athletes born outside of the UK brought home 10.71% of Team GB’s overall medals.
  • Although Wales contributed just 3% of athletes, Wales accounted for 25% of Team GB’s Gold medals.

2008 Beijing Olympics

2008 Olympics logo

As the first games where British athletes would officially be called Team GB, the Beijing Olympics was to be one of biggest in terms of British athletes put forward. Shrouded in controversy from the offset, amid concerns over air pollution and living arrangements, Team GB shrugged off the negativity and  managed a fantastic haul of 47 medals. As for the birthplace of these athletes, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland contributed record numbers with cities like Glasgow, Cardiff and Coleraine representing in big numbers.

2008 Team GB

Some interesting findings...

  • Athletes born outside of the UK made up 13.5% of the total medals won.
  • Johannesburg, South Africa contributed as many Team GB athletes as Northern Ireland.
  • Glasgow contributed more Team GB athletes than any other city outside of London.
  • Historically poorer areas of London delivered more athletes than the historically richer areas.

2012 London Olympics

2012 Olympics logo

When it comes to the Olympics I think it's fair to say that the show put on by London was one of the most memorable and glorious. Being Team GB's biggest medal haul in recent times, the home soil advantage saw British athletes take 65 of the medals on offer, with 29 of those Gold. As for the birthplace of these athletes, this really was a glory won by all corners of Great Britain. With huge numbers put forward by cities like Glasgow, Bristol and Cardiff, every corner of the country seems to have an Olympic athlete among them.

2008 Team GB

Some interesting findings...

  • Scotland contributed 7.84% of the Team GB athletes but brought home 10.31% of the total medals.
  • Bristol’s contribution of 9 athletes was the greatest number of athletes contributed by an English city or town outside of London.

2016 Rio Olympics

2016 Olympics logo

While there is certainly some concern among the sporting community regarding the Zika virus, safety in Brazil and the quality of stadia going into this Olympics, we are sure that once the games are under way Team GB will put on another great performance. With a target of 48 medals for athletes to aim for, the guys here at Hopewiser will be excitedly waiting to plot the medal winners against the data we have across the coming month.

2016 Team GB

All the Best to Team GB from Hopewiser!

From everyone here at Hopewiser, we understand the hard work involved in staying at the top of your game - whether that be on the sports field or the field of data. So we would like to wish all the athletes competing for Team GB all the best in Rio and yes, we can't wait to plot your medal data soon!