Much has been written about London 2012 being the first ever Olympic games where social media will be a significant source of information about the events taking place on and off the track. At Beijing in 2008 there may have been a few early adopters with iPhones and an Internet connection from the stadium, but they would have been few and far between – now the mobile access to social networking tools is almost ubiquitous.
But what is the big difference? The Olympic games website has been reporting real-time information on the games since 1996, so it has been possible for fans to keep track of the games online for many years now.
I see two major differences in the way people will experience this Olympic event:
- The public will create and report the news; just imagine how many photos are going to be taken of major events and immediately uploaded. Imagine the backchannel of conversation about the games that will be taking place once it starts – if you get overwhelmed with the online conversation about a single Euro 2012 football match then just consider how much more noise there will be for the Olympic games.
- The participating athletes will be always available; thousands of athletes are interacting with fans directly using social networks, giving their thoughts on performance and the event in general.
Personally I see the first change as the more significant of the two. The public no longer has to wait for radio or TV to report news and then offer expert analysis because people at the events will broadcast what they see immediately, with others offering thoughts long before any TV producer plans a reaction. This is a significant change and will probably change how broadcasters present major events like this in future.
It adds an additional level of interest and excitement to also have the athletes interacting directly via social networks, but with 6.7m fans on Facebook, is Usain Bolt really going to ever manage to say hello to everyone?
Photo by José Goulão licensed under Creative Commons