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Martin Wainwright, Thursday 16th August 2012 06:55
Here's the world as you won't have seen it before, and not suprisingly it comes from both the home town and academic alma mater of the north's Olympic heroine Jessica Ennis.
Designed by a geographer at Sheffield University, it shows the size of 205 countries which took part in the London Games in relation to their medal tally.
Britain's new appearance almost brings back the glow of pride familiar in imperial days when so much of the world was coloured pink. Instead of a little squiggle above the European continent, we resemble an enormous bloated plum. Not very flattering, but solid.
The map also squeezes Russia, Canada and the Asian sub-continent, those familiar giants on the usual projection, while Greenland, made so large by distortions in Mercator's work, is the size of a pin. It's an interesting artefact in a thought-provoking line; there have several attempts in recent years to show the world in terms of resources, deprivation or just rather more accurately than the problems which arise when you try to unroll a globe on to a flat surface.
The Olympic map is the work of Dr Benjamin Hennig, of the University of Sheffield's Department of Geography and an expert in social and spatial inequalities – a field which may be well-known to Guardian readers through the excellent work of Danny Dorling. Hennig has serious points to make in addition to producing his eye-catching map. For all the novel appearance of the 'Olympic world', it tells a familiar story in his view. He says:
From a global perspective, the legacy of the games is often measured in sporting success – however great the 'spirit' of the Olympics is emphasised. So it comes as little surprise that the medal tables are revisited over and over again.
But despite an extraordinary performance of the host nation and some disappointments in other parts of the world, the overall picture of Olympic success stories is of little surprise. Olympic inequalities already started with an imbalance of participating athletes from around the world which hardly reflects the global population distribution.
The wealthier parts of the world tend to have the lager teams, with Europe dominating the stage by far. At the other end of the scale are countries such as Bhutan, and others, with only two athletes.
That pattern is carried forward to the winner's podium, where in large the wealthier parts of the world are represented, even if some great exceptions have made quite some headlines. The map shows the final medal tables in Worldmapper-style cartograms, with the main map representing the total medal count, and the smaller inset map splitting these numbers into separate maps of gold, silver and bronze medals, each resizing a country according to the number of medals that it has received.
The Guardian Northerner asked if a further map could be made of Team GB's 29 gold, 17 silver and 19 bronze medals, so that our bosoms could swell with northern pride in the way which has been such a feature of the last fortnight (and so agreeably annoying to some from metropolitan Britain). Alas, the message came back that this was not practicable, but Dr Hennig does plan a further world map after the Paralympic Games, which run from Wednesday 29 August to Sunday 9 September.