The London 2012 Olympic Games are less than a week old, and already it's clear that social media — and especially Twitter — is dominating the event like never before, according to a professor in Laurentian University's school of sports administration.
Ann Pegoraro, also the director of Laurentian's sport marketing institute, said she was at her cottage over the weekend, but that didn't stop her from following the goings-on in London via the Twitter app on her smart phone.
“All the results are on Twitter as soon as they happen,” she said.
“The national teams are tweeting them out, and so are the federations, the (Canadian Olympic Committee) all the different Olympic committees and the fans...If you just wanted results, you could pretty much follow the Olympics through Twitter.”
Although Facebook is still playing a role in the sporting event, it isn't being used in the same way as Twitter, Pegoraro said. Facebook is mainly being used by media to attract the public to their main websites, she said.
The use of social media in the London 2012 games couldn't be much more different from what happened at the last summer Olympics – the Beijing 2008 games.
Pegararo, who attended the 2008 games, said strict Internet controls put in place by the Chinese government meant she was unable to access her Facebook account — or even news websites — most of the time.
“Even being in Beijing, it was very hard for me to follow results,” she said. “I could get results through email from home faster than I could find them through social media at all.”
While many say Vancouver 2010 was the first social media games, Twitter — a quick and convenient means of broadcasting information — just wasn't used to the same extent as it is now, Pegararo said.
The pervasiveness of Twitter in the London 2012 games has led to a number of interesting situations, she said.
Before the games even began, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) published guidelines for athletes who wish to tweet during the event. Among other things, athletes are unable to promote sponsors which aren't official sponsors of the Olympics.
“Yesterday some track athletes in the States called a press conference and did a little bit of a protest,” Pegoraro said.
“The reason behind their protest is that for some of them, in some sports, these two weeks every four years are the only time they're in the limelight. They're not well paid as amateur athletes, and it costs them a lot of money to train.
“This is their best chance as individuals to actually build a brand for themselves, and the IOC policy is inhibiting it.”
Citing security reasons, several more athletes were asked by the IOC to remove photos they'd posted on Twitter of their Olympics credentials.
While the IOC has taken a controlled approach to Twitter use, “what they haven't realized is the power of social media, for the most part, is a very powerful positive for them and their games,” Pegoraro said.
Incidents involving Twitter don't stop with the IOC, though, she said.
A Greek triple jumper and a Swiss soccer player were also both kicked off their national teams because they made racist comments on Twitter.
Then there was an incident where a teenage fan from Britain was arrested after posting threatening material on Twitter, including one where he vowed to drown a British diver and another where he told the same athlete he had let his late father down by not winning.
“In a short period of time, these games have had some pretty interesting incidents with athletes,” Pegoraro said.
A British journalist's Twitter account was also frozen after he criticized NBC's time-delayed approach to the Olympics.
At the same time, thousands of NBC viewers set up the hash tag “nbcfail” to complain about the network's Olympics coverage.
“There's a lot of outcry in the journalist world that (the removal of the journalist's Twitter account) seems to be a lot of heavy politics from NBC not liking the criticism,” Pegararo said.
“NBC and Twitter have partnered for the Olympic games to really showcase Twitter during the games. NBC has a site with a Tweet-tracker, showing how many tweets are related to the Olympics, how many tweets per minute are happening, what are the top athletes with the top sports.”
All of these incidents just go to show that social media has changed how sports is consumed over the last few years. It's mostly all for the better, though, she said.
“For us as sports consumers, I think social media has opened the games up to many more people faster than traditional media has,” Pegoraro said.
Posted by Arron Pickard