Olympics in 140 characters

As a student majoring in Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations, I often ponder the role and influence social media has on the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Whether good, bad, interesting or boring there has been a rather noticeable presence of social media thus far.
One of the first instances of social media I noticed during the Olympics was when someone tweeted me about Michael Phelp’s medal-winning performances hours before it was even televised.
When it comes to sports I like watching them live. Watching the Olympics is no different. I can settle for a recorded sporting event if I have to work or some other important event requires my attendance. However, the major disadvantage to watching a recorded sporting event is I will likely unwillingly discover the results before I can get home to watch it. Social media plays a huge part of the prevalence of this information. Hearing my team has won or that my favorite Olympian had to settle for bronze will never be as good as watching it live.
The sports fan side of me curses NBC’s decision to air the more popular Olympic events during prime-time. However, there is also a side of me that completely understands NBC’s decision. They want to make money, pure and simple. People are still tuning in to watch in record breaking numbers despite already hearing many of the outcomes. Some of the updates most complained about have actually been provided by NBC through live broadcast or their twitter feed.
The International Olympic Committee has been paying attention to the ways in which Olympians use social media. They recently made the decision to have expelled two Olympians from competing in the Olympics for making racially insensitive remarks through Twitter, a decision I am completely in favor of. Good sportsmanship should be a part of any sporting organization, especially the Olympics, and that should include what you say regardless of where you say it.
One has to speculate if International Olympic Committee’s decision to expel eight badminton players from South Korea, China, and Indonesia who were accused of trying to lose to face easier opponents in the future was influenced by social media. Can the IOC claim to be immune to the outrage widely expressed through social media about their behavior? Would they have been inclined to act so swiftly and harshly if the incident hadn’t received wide-spread coverage?
The athlete’s use of social media to connect with fans and allow fans to connect with them is yet another component. The President of our country took to twitter to personally send his congratulations to Michael Phelps on his Olympic achievements. Cheryl Cole had a flirtatious twitter exchange with Tom Daley asking for a diving lesson. Could social media be a distraction to athletes who not only receive encouragement and admiration but also face harsh criticism? It may be impossible to fully understand the impact of social media. However, social media is here to stay and it’s forever changing the way we receive information and interact with one another.

One Response to "Olympics in 140 characters"

  1. Paul Partridge   August 6, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Alas… What to do? I guess we must simply adapt.

    However, you mentioned the suspended bad-mitten players. My understanding is that they threw their games because that would place them in a more advantageous bracket moving forward and thus give themselves a better chance to win gold medals.

    While it has become somewhat common in many sports to rest your best players during meaningless games leading up to post season play and possibly losing, these Olympians admitted to actually taking affirmative steps for the sole purpose of losing.

    I guess I’m OK with resting but not with intentionally losing, but perhaps the debate will continue… ?

    Reply

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