The Olympics are here, and anyone who has been watching the torch slowly make its way around the country for the last 70 days, will be thinking it’s about time! By enjoying the coverage of our British countryside, and a flame that has never gone out, you will have already been indulging in a service that would have only been a pipe dream during the last Olympic Games.
How much has changed since Beijing 2008? The last four years have seen a lot of developments in many areas, stadia have been erected, technology has made massive leaps, and a drastic change has come from the world of social media and internet technology. The London 2012 Games will be the first Olympics that will see the full effects of the opportunities that are available to us since we have embraced the internet, social media and new media technology. Since 2008, we’ve seen social networks grow astronomically, mobile devices with more and more functionality are constantly being developed, and we’ve even had the invention of the tablet. Who would have thought that the iPad was just a glimmer in the late Steve Jobs’ eye, back in 2008?
Since the drama of the young girl in the 2008 Beijing opening ceremony, who wasn’t deemed quite cute enough to be the face of the Olympics, a lot has changed in the world of social media. Social networks have grown exponentially and we see multi-millions of users on each of the top three, one with almost one billion! In 2008 however, the scene was somewhat different; YouTube had just launched its mobile site (and those annoying adverts that run before you can see the latest, popular viral video), Facebook had just celebrated 100 million users (a mere drop in the ocean compared to the current 900 million) and Twitter was still attempting to help everyone understand what an @mention was.
Social networks are now firmly cemented as an integral part of our existence, and the changes over the past four years have influenced not only our internet activities, but also our media consumption and communication. How will social media affect the London 2012 Olympics and us? Here’s what each of the top three networks are doing to promote their connection with the games:
Addressing the public’s fascination with the Olympics and its competitors, Facebook has created the Olympic Hub website. Although Facebook is not an official sponsor of the games, the network has got involved by creating the site to increase engagement during the Games. The hub creates a great space for individuals to get to know all the athletes from their country and around the world, follow them, earn points, and gain exclusive content, all Olympic-related. A global leader board ranks your progress in the world, designed to keep the users keen and to encourage connecting with more athletes as the games quickly approach. Other features include the top Olympian updates, live Q&As with athletes and the popular Olympic-related topics in the world.
Twitter has been bombarded by Olympic-related profiles, mainly from the athletes competing, and unofficial Olympic-style pages. The official profile has been set up for sometime, currently boasting over 1 million followers, the profile has been tweeting out updates as the event looms closer. Hashtags have been created to monitor conversation and public opinion and photos are regularly uploaded to show progress at the Olympic Village. An account has also been set up on Instagram, and the Twitter feed has more recently been tweeting numerous sepia-tinted ‘arty’ photos of stadia, athletes, construction work and the London skyline.
Official Olympic sponsors, including Nike, have been using their profiles to tweet out Olympic-themed ads (whilst getting into trouble with the Advertising Standards Authority!) and TV networks from around the world have promised live feeds from the games on their profiles, so even while you’re out and about, you can see each medal Team GB win!
For the first time ever, YouTube have announced that people from all around the world will be able to watch the entirety of the games live as they happen, online! YouTube has teamed up with American TV network, NBC, promising 3,000 hours of live coverage of the event throughout the summer! NBC announced that on the YouTube network, users will be able to replay all the “web-exclusive events, television broadcasts, interviews with the athletes and exclusive daily segments about London 2012”. Although relatively unimportant for UK citizens (it’s already on our TVs!), this service will mean that everyone, globally, will have the opportunity to watch the Games live.
Developments that the top three social networks have seen since 2008, are already affecting the way we are consuming the Olympics in the UK, and around the world. Four years on from Beijing, we have seen substantial change in the way we watch TV, share information and communicate with each other, and London 2012 will epitomise our ever-developing, digital world. The only question now is, what will be possible for the games in Rio 2016?