On Wikipedia, Olympics popularity depended on your language

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Photo by Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil, CC BY 3.0 BR.
One takeaway: Michael Phelps is big everywhere, except in Japan. Photo by Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil, CC BY 3.0 BR.

The past few weeks of the Traffic Report/Top 25 have been dominated by the 2016 Summer Olympics. Since the Olympics are truly one of the world’s biggest international events, you might guess that it has also dominated the most-viewed articles of other language Wikipedias.
You would be right—but the topics of interest around the world show interesting variations. We love the Olympics, but also love our own Olympics and Olympians.
Using the Wikimedia Foundation’s data available through TopViews,* we compiled charts of the 15 most popular Olympic-related articles for the period of August 5-21, the official period of the Olympics, for seven-different language Wikipedias: English, Spanish, German, Portuguese (the language of the host country), Russian, French, and Japanese. We considered using but did not include the Chinese Wikipedia due to its blockage in China greatly affecting its view area.
First of all, Michael Phelps really is huge, around the world. Though far and away #1 in English, he was also #2 in Russian and Spanish, #3 in Portuguese, #4 in French, and #5 in German. And just like on the English Wikipedia, Usain Bolt was generally behind Phelps, but solidly the second most popular athlete of the Games. He was #3 in English, #4 in Spanish, #5 in Russian, #6 in Portuguese and French, #8 in Japan, and #11 in German.
But the old saying “big in Japan” did not apply to Phelps, where he placed 12th, the only place where Bolt was more popular, by about 25%. To be big in Japan, though, you really had to be Japanese. The top seven Olympic-related articles were filled by Japanese medalists, not even interrupted by general articles like 2016 Summer Olympics or All-time Olympic Games medal table which were usually popular across the board. Japan’s list was led by Saori Yoshida, who won wrestling silver, and had 240% the views of Phelps. She was followed by many others, presumably now household names in Japan, including gymnast Kōhei Uchimura (#2) and table tennis whiz Ai Fukuhara (#3).
Though Japan is the most extreme case, it is not fair to single them out, because the data also shows that every country likes to favor their own. In France, judo practitioner and gold medalist Teddy Riner also beat Phelps and Bolt. Elsewhere Phelps and Bolt still always led, but local favorites were not far behind. In Spanish, Argentine tennis player Juan Martín del Potro, who won silver, was #5, and Spaniard Rafael Nadal was #9. In German, horizontal bar gold medalist Fabian Hambüchen (#8) was the top local hero. And in English, American gymnasts including Simone Biles (#4) and Aly Raisman (#9), and swimmers Katie Ledecky (#8) and Ryan Lochte (#11), were prominent, though India’s P.V. Sindhu, who won silver in badminton, drew an impressive #6 showing on the American-dominated list. Sindu and those top Americans don’t appear on the other charts. And vice-versa. E.g., English speakers were not focused on the three medals won by Russian gymnast Aliya Mustafina (#6 in Russia), because she doesn’t appear anywhere on the English (or other charts).
Everybody also wants to know how everyone else is doing, and medal table charts were also popular articles, including the All-time Olympic Games medal table and the 2012 table. But people also want to know how their country is doing most especially. Thus the Spanish Wikipedia saw Mexico at the Olympics at #10, Colombia at the Olympics at #11, and Argentina at the Olympics at #13. Brazil at the Olympics was #5 on the Portuguese Wikipedia, Russia at the 2016 Summer Olympics was #3, and France at the 2016 Summer Olympics was at #10, in their respective domains.
Not popular in English, but rather popular elsewhere, was Football at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Perhaps because the American women’s team floundered, no football related articles are in the English Top 15, but such articles hit #3 in Germany (who won silver in both men’s and women’s), #7 in Spanish, #8 in Portuguese, and #14 in Russian. But if your country is good in a sport, like Germany was in football, or France was in the modern pentathalon (women’s silver, #5), that’s what you’re most likely going to watch.
Generally our data collection showed that the Olympics were very popular everywhere. Other non-Olympic topics do appear in their general charts (remember the charts below are Olympic-only articles), just as we see on the Traffic Report, but to about the same extent. The only exception may be Russia, where the popularity of other articles such as the film Suicide Squad seemed a bit higher, perhaps a reflection of the disqualification of many of their athletes.
So, just like the Ancient Olympic Games brought together all of Greece, the modern Olympics does seem to bring us all together. We may celebrate our own victories a bit more, but that is part of a human nature we all share and treasure.

English Wikipedia

Photo by Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil, CC BY 2.0.
Simone Biles. Photo by Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil, CC BY 2.0.
  1. Michael Phelps, 8,541,642 (American swimmer)
  2. 2016 Summer Olympics, 5,834,783
  3. Usain Bolt, 3,972,644 (Jamaican sprinter)
  4. Simone Biles, 3,047,891 (American gymnast)
  5. Olympic Games, 2,069,683
  6. P.V. Sindhu, 2,046,156 (Badminton silver for India)
  7. Aly Raisman, 1,941,000 (American gymnast)
  8. Katie Ledecky, 1,833,635  (American swimmer)
  9. 2012 Summer Olympics medal table, 1,833,545
  10. List of Olympic Games host cities, 1,825,836
  11. Ryan Lochte, 1,784,183 (American swimmer)
  12. All-time Olympic Games medal table, 1,717,762
  13. 2024 Summer Olympics, 1,635,559
  14. 2020 Summer Olympics, 1,630,544
  15. India at the 2016 Summer Olympics, 1,524,028

Spanish Wikipedia

Photo by si.robi, CC BY-SA 2.0.
Juan Martín del Potro. Photo by si.robi, CC BY-SA 2.0.
  1. Juegos Olímpicos de Río de Janeiro 2016, 1,524,498 (2016 Summer Olympics)
  2. Michael Phelps, 1,215,234
  3. Juegos Olímpicos, 1,157,139 (Olympic Games)
  4. Usain Bolt, 668,756
  5. Anexo:Medallero de los Juegos Olímpicos de Londres 2012, 436,819 (2012 Summer Olympics medal table)
  6. Juan Martín del Potro, 421,968 (Won silver for Argentina in tennis)
  7. Torneo masculino de fútbol en los Juegos Olímpicos, 352,667 (Honduras and Colombia made the men’s football quarterfinals)
  8. Nadia Comăneci, 317,600 (Noted Romanian gymnast)
  9. Rafael Nadal, 276,550 (Won gold in doubles tennis for Spain)
  10. México en los Juegos Olímpicos,  274,812 (Mexico at the Olympics, they won 5 medals)
  11. Colombia en los Juegos Olímpicos, 260,072 (Colombia at the Olympics, they won 8 medals)
  12. Anexo:Medallero histórico de los Juegos Olímpicos, 253,384 (Summer-only all time medal table?)
  13. Argentina en los Juegos Olímpicos, 252,299 (Argentina at the Olympics, they won 4)
  14. Anexo:Medallero de los Juegos Olímpicos de Río de Janeiro 2016, 251,716 (2016 Summer Olympics medal table)
  15. Juegos Olímpicos de Londres 2012, 249,200 (2012 Summer Olympics)

German Wikipedia

  1. Olympische Sommerspiele 2016, 1,194,670 (2016 Summer Olympics)
  2. Medaillenspiegel der Olympischen Sommerspiele 2012, 424,724 (2012 Summer Olympics medal table)
  3. Olympische Sommerspiele 2016/Fußball, 379,697 (Germany won women’s gold and men’s silver in football)
  4. Medaillenspiegel der Olympischen Sommerspiele 2016, 366,095 (2016 Summer Olympics medal table)
  5. Michael Phelps, 328,098 (#1 on en.wiki)
  6. Ewiger Medaillenspiegel der Olympischen Spiele, 259,090 (All-time Olympic Games medal table [#12 on en.wiki])
  7. Moderner Fünfkampf, 231,559 (Modern pentathlon; Germany did not medal)
  8. Fabian Hambüchen, 226,895 (German gymnast, gold in Horizontal bar)
  9. Olympische Spiele, 225,299 (Olympic Games)
  10. Laura Ludwig, 214,151 (German, won gold beach volleyball)
  11. Usain Bolt, 211,147 (#3 on en.wiki)
  12. Angelique Kerber German, 183,147 (won silver in tennis)
  13. Fußball bei den Olympischen Spielen, 175,795 (Football at the Summer Olympics)
  14. Franziska van Almsick Famed, 167,722 (German swimmer 1992-04 Games)
  15. Isabell Werth German, 161,435 (two medals in equestrian events)

Portuguese Wikipedia

Photo by Ricardo Stuckert/PR, CC BY 3.0 BR.
Daiane dos Santos. Photo by Ricardo Stuckert/PR, CC BY 3.0 BR.
  1. Jogos Olímpicos de Verão de 2016, 433,708 (2016 Summer Olympics)
  2. Lista de medalhas brasileiras nos Jogos Olímpicos, 423,637 (List of Olympic medalists for Brazil, back to 1920)
  3. Michael Phelps, 362,416
  4. Jogos Olímpicos, 351,361 (Olympic Games)
  5. Brasil nos Jogos Olímpicos, 315,302 (Brazil at the Olympics, they hosted and won 19)
  6. Usain Bolt, 277,247
  7. Anéis olímpicos, 247,965 (Olympic symbols)
  8. Futebol nos Jogos Olímpicos, 215,149 (Football at the Summer Olympics)
  9. Daiane dos Santos, 197,842 (Brazilian gymnast at 2004–12 Olympics)
  10. Quadro de medalhas dos Jogos Olímpicos, 193,547 (All-time Olympic Games medal table)
  11. Olimpíada, 192,958 Olympiad
  12. Marta (futebolista), 186,631 (Brazilian footballer Marta, Olympic flag carrier)
  13. Seleção Brasileira de Voleibol Masculino, 186,364 (Brazil men’s national volleyball team won gold)
  14. Arthur Mariano, 168,989 (Brazilian gymnast won bronze)
  15.  Jogos Olímpicos de Verão de 2012, 154,990 (2012 Summer Olympics)

Russian Wikipedia

  1. Летние Олимпийские игры 2016, 1,552,310 (2016 Summer Olympics)
  2. Фелпс, Майкл, 576,288 (Michael Phelps)
  3. Россия на летних Олимпийских играх, 364,187 (2016 Russia at the 2016 Summer Olympics)
  4. Общий медальный зачёт Олимпийских игр, 329,134 (All-time Olympic Games medal table)
  5. Болт, Усэйн, 322,947 (Usain Bolt)
  6. Мустафина, Алия Фаргатовна, 317,703 (Aliya Mustafina won three gymnastics medals)
  7. Летние Олимпийские игры 2012, 305,320 (2012 Summer Olympics)
  8. Медальный зачёт на летних Олимпийских играх 2016, 224,690 (2016 Summer Olympics medal table)
  9. Итоги летних Олимпийских игр 2012 года, 222,854 (2012 Summer Olympics medal table)
  10. Исинбаева, Елена Гаджиевна, 216,933 (Russian pole vaulter and past medalist, banned from Rio)
  11. Ефимова, Юлия Андреевна, 194,243 (Russian swimmer won 2 silvers)
  12. Мамун, Маргарита, 171,751 (Russian rhythmic gymnast, won all-around gold)
  13. Олимпийские игры, 168,178 (Olympic Games)
  14. Футбол на летних Олимпийских играх, 145,593 (2016 Football at the 2016 Summer Olympics)
  15. Клишина, Дарья Игоревна, 134,863 (Russian long jumper, placed 9th)

French Wikipedia

Photo by Georges Biard, CC BY-SA 3.0.
Teddy Riner. Photo by Georges Biard, CC BY-SA 3.0.
  1. Jeux olympiques d’été de 2016, 669,735 (2016 Summer Olympics)
  2. Teddy Riner, 429,262 (French judo gold medalist)
  3. Tableau des médailles des Jeux olympiques d’été de 2012, 405,793 (2012 Summer Olympics medal table)
  4. Michael Phelps, 373,679
  5. Pentathlon moderne, 328,205 (Modern pentathlon, France won women’s silver)
  6. Usain Bolt, 328,032
  7. Jeux olympiques, 255,625 (Olympic Games)
  8. Tony Yoka, 245,390 (French boxer, won gold)
  9. Décathlon, 238,487 (Kévin Mayer of France won silver)
  10. France aux Jeux olympiques d’été de 2016, 199,487 (France at the 2016 Summer Olympics)
  11. Estelle Mossely, 187,973 (French boxer, won gold)
  12. France aux Jeux olympiques, 187,174 (France at the Olympics)
  13. Jeux olympiques d’été de 2020, 171,942 (2020 Summer Olympics)
  14. Football aux Jeux olympiques d’été de 2016, 156,970 (Football at the 2016 Summer Olympics)
  15. Pentathlon, 153,247 (See #5)

Japanese Wikipedia

Photo by Pierre-Yves Beaudouin, CC BY-SA 3.0.
Jun Mizutani. Photo by Pierre-Yves Beaudouin, CC BY-SA 3.0.
  1. 吉田沙保里, 820,546 (Saori Yoshida won wrestling silver)
  2. 内村航平, 649,113 (Kōhei Uchimura won two golds in artistic gymnastics)
  3. 福原愛, 553,213 (Ai Fukuhara won table tennis bronze)
  4. ケンブリッジ飛鳥, 549,533 (Asuka Cambridge, silver in 4×100 relay)
  5. 伊調馨, 503,043 (Kaori Icho, wrestling gold)
  6. ベイカー茉秋, 482,702 (Mashu Baker, judo gold)
  7. 水谷隼, 442,357 (Jun Mizutani, 2 table tennis medals)
  8. ウサイン・ボルト, 429,937 (Usain Bolt)
  9. 松友美佐紀, 384,173 (Misaki Matsutomo, tennis gold)
  10. 伊藤美誠, 366,963 (Mima Ito, table tennis bronze)
  11. ロンドンオリンピック (2012年) での国・地域別メダル受賞数一覧, 344,874 (2012 Summer Olympics medal table)
  12. マイケル・フェルプス, 341,853 (Michael Phelps)
  13.  近代オリンピックでの国・地域別メダル総獲得数一覧, 328,527 (All-time Olympic Games medal table)
  14. 石川佳純, 306,033 (Kasumi Ishikawa, team table tennis bronze)
  15. リオデジャネイロオリンピック, 291,440 (2016 Summer Olympics)


  • *One caveat on TopViews: TopViews compiles data on the 1,000 most viewed articles on a Wikipedia for each day. Running charts for longer periods compiles from those daily charts. Thus, when an article drops out of the top 1,000, those views for a day will not be included in the compiled data. Generally speaking, we have found that this gap is not a significant problem when looking at the most popular articles. The English Traffic Report and Top 25 report are usually derived from the 5000 most-popular pages, which includes all viewcount data, but there is no similar source for other-language Wikipedias. On the current WP:5000, the 1,000th most viewed article has under 59,000 views for one day. This number should be significantly lower on other language Wikipedias, which receive less traffic.
  • **We also reviewed statistics for the Bengali Wikipedia (7th on the list of languages by total number of speakers), but traffic and usage there was too low to yield usable information. Though their page on the 2016 Summer Olympics was in their top 10 (#5), many of the more viewed articles on that project are traditional encyclopedic topics, e.g., #1 was Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding leader of Bangladesh. Only 21 articles (on any topic) had more 5,000 views during the Olympics on that project.
  • The Arabic Wikipedia was also considered. Though it has more traffic than the Bengali project (their 2016 Summer Olympics article was #1, showing users go there for topical information, the general Olympics Games article was #2, and Phelps was #10 among all articles), but only about 50 articles on that project broke 50,000 views during the Olympics, and primary encyclopedic articles (like Egypt and Saudi Arabia) were among them. Ultimately, space and time limitations led to the selection of seven languages to sample.

Milowent, English Wikipedia editor

This post was originally published in the Signpost, a news journal about the English Wikipedia and the Wikimedia community; it was adapted and lightly edited for publication in the Wikimedia blog. The views expressed are the author’s alone and not necessarily held by the Wikimedia Foundation.

Archive notice: This is an archived post from blog.wikimedia.org, which operated under different editorial and content guidelines than Diff.

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