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The Olympics in the Social/Mobile Age

London 2012 banner at The Monument.Ever since I was a kid one of my favorite things has been the Olympics, particularly the Summer Olympics. Each time the four year wait came to an end, I would get excited, ready to watch as much as I could on television. I don’t remember much about the 1968 Olympics, so my earliest memories are not surprisingly related to the 1972 Munich Olympics and the tragedy that unfolded right before our eyes.

Once cable came on to the scene, more of the events were available, even at odd times, rather than just having them packaged into the day and prime time. Then the Internet presented a problem as networks tried to keep us interested with tape delayed broadcasts even when we could find out the results in real time.

And this year, I think the Olympics will be even more exciting. In the four years since the last Summer Olympics (and two since the Winter games) much has changed. Social networks have taken a greater hold on our lives, and mobile technology is exploding.

With just one month to go, I’m really excited about this year, and particularly excited about the technological aspects of the coverage:

In addition to the normal coverage we’re accustomed to getting from NBC, the network will also be streaming every event live online. That’s more than 300 events in 32 sports that you can watch as they happen, on either your computer or mobile device. For some of the events, you’ll even get to choose from multiple cameras. For instance, for track and field there are usually multiple events going on at the same time. You can either watch the normal coverage that bounces from event to event, or isolate on just one specific event. Yes, if you’re a discus fan, you can watch every throw in real time.

For the first time ever, we, the audience, get to create our own customized feed, no matter where we are. With a variety of apps and text updates, combined with live feeds, we can stay connected to the Olympics in a new and exciting way. We won’t be tethered to our televisions, and we won’t have to let the networks dictate what we watch.

And we aren’t the only winners in this. The network also wins because they’ll be able to show off a wider range of events, thus deflecting some of the criticism they’ve taken over the years by choosing some events over others. And they’ll be able to track interest in the various events through analytics related to those streams.

The athletes and individual events will also win with more exposure. Less popular events like archery, hand ball, water polo, or badminton are less likely to get prime time television coverage, but now fans of those niche events can tune in live. I know that Gini Dietrich will be keeping an eye on the cycling events throughout the day. And my friend, and former olympic athlete and coach, Kaarina Dillabough will be focusing on her chosen sport: rhythmic gymnastics. Me? I’ll be sampling a lot and just playing around with the apps to expose myself to lesser known sports.

Additionally, more athletes and organizations will be using social media, particularly Twitter. For those attending the events in London, geolocation platforms like Foursquare will be incredibly busy. You can bet that various video platforms will be involved, and plenty of olympic related Pinterest boards will be springing up.

Not to mention that our Facebook and Twitter feeds will be filled with coverage and commentary from the members of our social communities. In fact, we are no longer relegated to the role of spectator. As we control our own experience, and interact with various athletes, we are becoming a part of the story; we become participants.

The implications

What was once solely a localized event covered by television is now a full-blown “experience” that transcends any one medium.Your olympic experience is your olympic experience. We will still have those shared moments, but it will be on a larger, more theoretical scale. We are seeing the increased importance of mobile, both for the creation of content as well as the dissemination and reception of that content.

Our shared experience is now a global, digital experience. With these types of live streaming capabilities, we can watch what we want, when we want, in any location. The day of so-called “appointment viewing” is over. We used to work our schedule around certain events or programs, to make sure we were home to watch. Now, we don’t need this, and it has far reaching implications in terms of our culture, particularly on the level of the nuclear family, but I think we’ll figure that out and adapt accordingly.

On a more technological level, it opens up new doors and models for content distribution which is more program driven than channel or network driven. This is a peek inside the future of digital television entertainment. Interestingly it ties into a great conversation that began over on Spin Sucks yesterday about YouTube and other video channels, and the future of programming. I think the next five years will be incredibly interesting as old distribution models fall away and newer models take their place, in ways that are much more closely tied to the production of the programming. As someone who has studied media theory and convergence, this is exciting stuff.

But back to the Olympics…

Probably the most interesting site this time around is the Olympic Athlete Hub, with information on how to connect on Twitter and other platforms with all of your favorite athletes. There, you can create an account via either Twitter or Facebook, and gain access to a lot of great information. And there’s a gamification aspect where you can earn rewards as you follow various athletes.

Here’s a guide to some other links you might find helpful as you follow the 2012 Summer Olympics:


Olympic Games on Facebook

U.S. Olympic Team on Facebook

London Olympics 2012 on Facebook



The Olympics

U.S. Olympic Team

NBC’s Olympic Website

London Games 2012 Website



International Olympic Committee

London 2012 Games

U.S. Olympic Team


Other Sites

Olympic Apps from NBC

Olympics on Foursquare

International Olympic Committee YouTube Channel


This post was written with a U.S. focus, simply because that’s where I’m located, and most of my readers are here in the states, however you can easily find out about how social and traditional media will be covering the Olympics in your country or region.

How will you be participating in this Summer Olympic games?


Join The Conversation

  • FlumesNews's picture
    Jul 5 Posted 4 years ago FlumesNews

    Read with interest your article. I agree the Olympic Hub is a step in the right direction. At flumes, we are doing something similar to the hub. We are automatically tracking the most popular hashtags and keywords from social media for London 2012 and analysing the stream to bubble up the best content such as the best articles, photos, videos and tweets and real-time analysis around gender, location, volume etc. I hope you will be interested in taking a look  There is also a timeline, users (similar to the hub) and visualise page which analyse the story in different ways. 

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