The 2012 Olympics may be in London, but you'll have the opportunity to get closer than ever to the action as athletes and organizers alike promise to make this the first-ever "social games."
It's not too early to start tuning in with your smartphone or computer. In advance of the opening ceremonies July 27, fans can follow the daily musings of athletes on Twitter, track the path of the famed torch and unlock virtual badges by checking into sites that hosted historic Olympic events on FourSquare.
Here's how to get your social games on:
--Sign into the official Olympic hub (hub.olympic.org) with your Twitter or Facebook account. Though it could be a pain to hunt around for all the pages related to your favorite sport or athlete, this site delivers the goods to fans in one convenient spot. Users can find the verified accounts of athletes and search by preferred sport, team or player.
--Follow the official Twitter feed of the 2012 Games, @London2012. It's updated continually with all the latest happenings.
--Download the London 2012 Results app, which provides all the latest news, schedules and scores live on your smartphone or tablet. It's free for Android and Apple users.
There are some social media offerings reserved for the most serious Olympic-philes. For instance, superfans can build and host their own virtual games this year by downloading the "Olympic Games City" app on Facebook.
It's all part of an unprecedented -- and admirable -- push by the International Olympic Committee to give fans around the world new access to the games through the egalitarian channels of social media. But this novel approach comes with rules. According to the organization's social media policy, athletes "must not report on competition or comment on the activities of other participants or accredited persons."
Translation: They can only tweet about themselves. In addition, athletes can't upload original video from within Olympic sites, which is a bummer.
Yet athletes have embraced the concept of "social games" with fervor. From famed swimmer Michael Phelps to Needham's own gymnast Aly Raisman, they are not only answering and re-tweeting their fans, they're also taking everyone along on the journey.
"Packing for the Olympics ... I love the sound of that :) . ... I wish I could bring my whole closet! Overpacking, again," tweeted Raisman yesterday.
Her teammate Kyla Ross appeared similarly awestruck, tweeting last week, "Can't believe the flight attendant announced who I was to the entire plane and let me board first!! #crazy"
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