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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Murphy

Post Event Report: What Canadians actually thought of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Updated: Oct 7, 2021

Hindered by the looming presence of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics officially ended, Sunday August 8th, with Canada finishing strong.

Canada had a record-setting Olympic Games with 24 medals won in Tokyo - the most medals Canada has won in the summer games since the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Canada's successes were made more remarkable, however, considering they came to Tokyo in a state of emergency due to a rise on COVID-19 cases.

Prior to the commencement of the Opening ceremony, Canadians expressed their thoughts and opinions about the Games on Twitter. With a total volume of 39.1k Tweets posted within the first 2 hours of the Opening ceremony, Canadians seemed divided in terms of their support for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Olympic Games as a whole.

As with the ‘Pre Olympics’ Map, the ‘Post Olympics’ Map was plotted using data taken from Canadian Twitter users, where any mention of #Tokyo2020 and #Olympics were evaluated. Individuals’ Twitter posts were scraped off of the web, coded using the Q.i. MAPPER, and then the results were plotted on a Q.i. HeatMap.

The attributes on the Q.i. HeatMap can be weighted based on their position, which indicates their overall strength in influencing perception and sentiment. With these weights, we can calculate a score based on where attributes are located and how frequently they are mentioned in unstructured text (i.e. Tweets from Canadians). This can be used to compare positive vs. negative sentiment (with a high 'Core' score being optimal), and even aggregate meaning across the 8 zones of the map.

Our 'Pre' Map Twitter data had a Positive Association Score of 54.6%, a Negative Association Score of 45.4%, and a Core Score of 20.3%, indicating that about 45% of engaged Canadian Twitter users perceived the Games as Negative, with the majority of negative associations falling within the 'Arrogant' zone of our map. Negatives such as 'Not for me' and 'Discriminatory' hold the most equity in this section, primarily due to concerns relating to the efficacy of the IOC and mistreatment of staff and athletes.

A Core Score of 20.3% indicates that, out of all the positive associations made with the Olympics, 20.3% of them are positioned within the Core of our Map. The Core of our Map is defined by those words that are most connected to other positive traits, making it the most desirable position on our Map to hold equity. With a Core score of only 20.3%, Canadians had yet to develop any sort of emotional connection or investment with the Games. This number aligns with expectations as Canadian athletes had not yet started competing - as the athletes step into the spotlight, and start competing in their respective events, Canadians back home will sympathize and engage with their athlete's stories, raising the number of Core associations made.

The negative and positive Zone score distributions of our 'Pre' Map can be seen above. These tables represent the distribution of equity held within each zone of our Map. The 'Delightful' and 'Exciting' Zones hold the most equity with respect to the Positive associations made with the Games (Pre event) - Individuals' expressed how they believed the Games were going to be 'Entertaining', and 'Exciting' in light of the ongoing COVID pandemic. The vast majority of negative associations hold equity within the 'Arrogant' and 'Hyper' Zones, where Canadians expressed how the Games this year were 'Not for me' and 'Dangerous' - that we, as a society, have bigger issues to worry about than the Olympics. Looking at the numbers, there is a clear societal divide in terms of how Canadians perceived the Olympic Games prior to the Games commencing.

*negative zones - arrogant and hyper

Given the unfortunate circumstances in which the Games were held this year, we expected to see a clustering of Zone scores that lean towards the 'Exciting/Hyper' and 'Influential/Arrogant' Zones of our Map - Canadians were uncertain if the Games were being held at the right time, given the continued spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking at what Canadians had to say about the Olympics (post event), it's not surprising to see a stronger, positive signal within the core of our Map. As the Games progressed, and Canadian athletes such as Andre De Grasse, Damian Warner, and Maude Charron started bringing home Gold medals, we saw a drastic change in the heat distribution within our Map.

With a total volume of 47.7k Tweets uploaded to Twitter within the first 2 hours of the Closing Ceremony, Canadians seemed a lot more united in terms of their opinions towards the Olympics.

Our 'Post' Map Twitter data had a Positive Association Score of 81%, a Negative Association Score of 19%, and a Core Score of 46% - indicating that only 19% of engaged Canadian Twitter users perceived the Games as Negative after the fact. This is a huge decrease in negative associations made with the Games when compared with the 'Pre' Map Twitter data, where the percentage of negative associations decreased from 45% to 19%. Positive associations made with the Games increased from 55%, in the 'Pre' Map, to 81% in the 'Post' Map, and the Core Score increased from 20.3% to 46%.

Not only did Canadians have better and more meaningful things to say about the Olympics at the start of the closing ceremony, they also had a lot fewer negative sentiments. The tendency for individuals to catastrophize events of uncertainty, like a sporting event during a global pandemic, could be used to explain the poor association values related to the 'Pre' Map. The distribution of both positive and negative Zone scores, for the 'Post' Map, can be seen below:

Looking at the 'Post' Map, the 'Delightful' and 'Influential' zones hold the most equity with respect to the positive associations made with the Games - attributes such as 'Makes you feel happy' and 'The best' were most commonly referenced within the Twitter data. Similar to the 'Pre' Map, the majority of the negative associations in the 'Post' Map are located within the 'Arrogant' zone, only to a much lesser extent. Attributes such as 'Not for me' still hold equity at a level of 6%, about 7% less than the 'Not for me' associations made in the 'Pre' Map.

*negative zone - not for me

The change in Zone score distribution, between the 'Pre' and 'Post' Maps, can be seen above. As the Olympic Games progressed, almost every Positive Zone on our Map gained equity, and nearly all Negative Zones lost equity. This drastic change in heat distribution can be primarily attributed to the successes Canadian athletes had during the Games - as the Games progressed, Canadians became more interested with the sporting results and emotional connection to the Games, rather than with the integrity of the IOC and the efficacy of the Olympics as a whole. With Canadian athletes tasting victory in Tokyo, Canadian’s back home had the opportunity to share in their success, expressing themselves on Twitter and other social media platforms.

Given the uncertain opinions Canadian Twitter users expressed online, prior to the Olympic Games starting, it seemed as though this year's Games were expected to be a let-down. It was not until Canadian athletes started participating in their respective events, that Canadians back home were able to get behind a 'common cause' and accept the Games as a whole - where everyone was able to truly enjoy the event for what it is; a showcase of sportsmanship, will and tenacity.

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