Rings (of inequality) around the world

The honour bestowed in carrying the flame, kindled by eleven women using the light of the Sun, its rays concentrated by a parabolic mirror in Olympia, Greece. The call to peace through the releasing of a flock of doves in the main stadium.  The Queen parachuting into the opening ceremony from a helicopter, escorted by James Bond.

No one can accuse the Olympics of lacking in the twin departments of spectacle and pageantry.

It’s in this long tradition of symbolism and theatre that we turn to the Olympic emblem, designed by Pierre de Coubertin just under 100 years ago in August 1914.

It was chosen in order to

…illustrate and represent the world Congress of 1914…: five intertwined rings in different colours – blue, yellow, black, green, red – are placed on the white field of the paper. These five rings represent the five parts of the world which now are won over to Olympism and willing to accept healthy competition.

At least one of the five colours of the rings is present on each of the participating countries’ flag. This is why there are only five colours. But did you ever stop to think about the associations of the five colours of rings with the five continents? Surely they are obvious, aren’t they?

Take a look at this video from Gustavo Sousa who was interested in getting behind the pomp and circumstance of the Olympics in London this summer. The 16 prints – presenting everything from the percentage of millionaires globally to McDonald’s outlets – did not include a key that would assign continents to coloured rings. This, of course was intentional.

Can you identify these continents, based solely on the statistics shown, without a key?

The inequality gaps that this range of infographics reveal – whether it is in the ratio of billionaires or the amount of people living with HIV and AIDS across the world – make an important statement about the shape of our world, whether you like it or note, and where we might fit in.

I contacted Gustavo to find out the stats sources he used to make these prints but I have a sneaking suspicion that he won’t return my email. We know that the world is more unequal than it has ever been – in concentrations of wealth, health, sports facilities and economic control, among others. The stripped down statistics from each region and distilled into the rings seek to explore our knee-jerk reactions to this visual report on the state of the global inequality.

As Gustavo has said, the rings represent healthy competition and union in an imperfect world. In conclusion, he suggests that

Maybe understanding the differences is the first step to try to make things more equal.

Without the stats some might take this as a problematic request if we are seeking to understand the differences without the facts. What do you think?

Does the information speak for itself?


Explore more…

  • HINT! Oceania=blue, Europe=black, Americas=red, Africa=yellow, Asia=green.
  • Get set for the Olympic Truce | https://getset.london2012.com | comprehensive learning resource to introduce the concept of the Olympic Truce to young people designed to encourage them to debate and discuss how sport and the Olympic and Paralympic Games can bring people together from different backgrounds, cultures and countries.
  • Modern Olympic Symbols and Traditions by Shmuel Ross | for those interested in more info on Olympic lore, symbols and traditions (note: the releasing of doves during the opening ceremony in the 1988 Seoul Games isn’t for the faint hearted!)
  • Olympism in action | Olympic Movement main website | info on the movement building a better world through sport