Project description

Ramil Guliyev was crowned champion in the 200 meters of the world athletics championship in London and so he won the gold medal for Turkey. The Turks got their other medal, silver in the 400 meters hurdles, with Yasmani Copello. Ramil Guliyev was born in Azerbaijan, Yasmani Copello in Cuba. They are not the only ones cases of athletes born in one country and who end up competing for another. This problem is an issue in many sports, and in athletics it is extremely visible.

We wanted to explore this phenomenon from the data of the last 20 years and thus try to find the particularities of a phenomenon that many only associate with the theft of athletes by wealth nations from countries with less resources.

In the article we show all the changes of nationality of athletes (transfers of allegiance) of the last 20 years. This way we could see how the changes have been between different geographical regions as well as between countries. This allowed us to observe which were the countries that lost the most athletes, which won the most and which countries were the most frequent involved in particular changes.
Observing these trends allowed us to identify other causes that motivate the changes of nationality of the athletes that go, besides the well-known theft of athletes, from the history and culture of the athletes, their family relationships to their sporting potentials and possibilities of development. All this illustrated with data and stories of athletes who have decided to compete for a country other than their birthplace.
With this we could analyze and offer elements that allow the understanding of a phenomenon that has come to concern the highest leadership of Athletics, the IAAF, which decided to revoke the regulations that allowed and regulated that athletes could compete representing new countries from obtain the nationality of these or have dual citizenship. This is under study and a solution has not yet been presented. Until this happens, it will not be accepted that athletes with recent nationality changes compete on behalf of their new countries.

What makes this project innovative?

The problem of changing nationalities in sport, including athletics, has been addressed previously in several media but almost always from the perspective of the theft of athletes and through particular examples. Being able to establish all the changes of nationalities that have been made in athletics during a long period, 20 years, could give a greater vision to what are the causes that sustain this phenomenon, which, according to our hypothesis is multicausal.
With the historical sequence all the tendencies were detected and with it the evidences of the other causes that sustain a phenomenon traditionally argued only from the theft of athletes. This integral and complete analysis had not been done before.
Thus, the use of visual resources accompanied by stories of athletes show in a simple way the problematic and the elements for its analysis. This is stated in a global way but with the dynamism and interactivity of the information each one can also see how the phenomenon has affected their countries and what are the causes that are related in their particular case. This makes the phenomenon of the change of nationalities in athletics can be seen globally but also characterized in each country where it happened.
The generation of the data and the graphics used in the article are done from a JSON file where all the changes of nationalities are present. This will allow the article to remain alive when the next regulations are published by the IAAF, as it will be enough continue updating the JSON database and the changes will be automatically reflected in the article. This JSON database is available for others to use in related work.

What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?

The problem that the work deals with is of global impact. The IAAF, the maximum direction of athletics globally, has decided to attack the phenomenon by revoking the rules that allow this issue and are working on a new regulation that has not yet been announced.
This work is also the first one done by, an organization focused on the Cuban sphere, with an international projection without a Cuban focus. This resulted in an increase in visits that even exceeded the previous work that addressed the problem of private work in Cuba where they were first revealed, and it is still the only place where they can be consulted, the particularized statistics of this issue that is vital in Cuban society.
In addition, the work was published after the closure of the London Athletics World Championship, which ensured that the problem addressed by the work was understood. It was also recognized by Cuban and foreign media.

Source and methodology

The article is based on the PDF documents published by the IAAF where all transfers of allegiance are listed from 1998 to 2017. These documents were processed to obtain the data reflected in the article.
In a first instance of the processing, a plain text was obtained from each of the documents using the pdftotext tool. With each text we created a document that was converted, manually and using the selection in columns that it provides sublime, in a csv file that contains the name of the athlete, the country of origin of the change, the country of destination, the year of eligibility to compete for the country of destination and the year relative to the official publication of the transfer of allegiance.
Subsequently, the csv documents were transformed, using the python programming language, into a single JSON document with all the information of the transfers from 1998 to 2017. The transfers of allegiance were processed to obtain quantified information relative to the countries involved, which was also added to the document JSON document.
In the manual review of the transfers of allegiance, some inconsistencies of the data were detected, which, after verification using other sources, were corrected. Others, which could not be certified as errors, were left as they were obtained from the original sources. As an inconsistency, it was detected that there were transfers related to the same athlete with the same country of origin-destination country, in these cases those whose updating was older were eliminated. Some data regarding the acronyms of countries used in the IAAF documents were also homogenized.
For visualizations, C3.js was used in the generation of the pie charts and in the case of the Sankey diagrams, the code of the Sankey Diagram Generator that was made from the Sankey plugin for D3.js was taken as a basis.

Technologies Used

The work was published in that uses github as its publishing platform. In this way the history of the code that was made for the publication of the work is available, which can be consulted and reused by others for different purposes. The code is made with HTML5, Javascript and CSS.
To obtain the data, the pdftotext tool was used to, based on the PDF reports published by the IAFF related to the transfers of allegiance, generate files in CSV formats. These files were processed with a program made in Python with which the database was generated in JSON format.
To make the visualizations and the interaction with them, from the processing of the HTML DOM with Javascript, the JQuery, D3.js, C3.js libraries and the Sankey Diagram Generator were used. The Sankey Diagram Generator code was adapted and modified to make the Sankey graphs which are displayed in the article.


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