The London Games will be tweeted, tagged, liked, blogged, mashed and rehashed as no other Games have been.
Citius, altius, fortius? LOL.
At the Olympic Games in London, set to begin this month, the official motto of "swifter, higher, stronger" will be supplemented by a new label. If some marketers, fans and athletes have anything to say, these Games will be the first Social Media Olympics -- the "Socialympics," as some are calling them. Even the Olympic movement, which sometimes steps into the future with great caution, has warily accepted the idea.
As befits an event surrounded by superlative athletic, logistical and marketing feats, there is a bit of exaggeration in this description. The biggest social media platforms have been around for several previous Olympics, including the Beijing Summer Games of 2008 and the Vancouver Winter Games of 2010. Twitter was founded in 2006, YouTube in 2005 and Facebook in 2004. Broadly defined, social media go back even further: Blogging dates at least to the 1990s.
But every Olympics needs a story line, preferably a "first." Thus, the Athens Games of 2004 took the Olympic movement back to its ancient home. The Beijing Games carried the torch to a large, previously untapped market. In Britain, a midsize country that has been host to the Games before and where people's enthusiasm for the event appears to be lukewarm, there is a new narrative.
"Just as every new election is now called a social media election, every Olympics is now a social media Olympics," said Stanislas Magniant, a social media expert at MSLGroup, a public relations agency, in Paris. "But this is going to be vastly bigger in scale and magnitude."
There are several reasons for this. First, summer Olympics are much more widely followed than their winter counterparts, so the Vancouver Games did not register in the same way in the social media stakes.
And uncertainty about Chinese censorship of the Internet may have curbed social media activity before and during the Beijing Games.
In the four years since the Beijing Games, use of social media platforms has surged. Facebook has gone from about 100 million active users to about 900 million, Twitter from six million to about 150 million. Many more people now have smartphones, so they can react immediately to something they have seen in a stadium, arena, court, pool, ring or velodrome. Clearly the London Games will be tweeted, tagged, liked, blogged, mashed and rehashed like no previous Olympics.
All of this has created opportunities for the Olympic organizers, sponsors, participants and spectators. At the Beijing Games, the Olympics organizers did not even have a coordinated social media presence. This time around, there is an "Olympic Athletes' Hub," to help fans find and follow competitors' Twitter feeds and Facebook pages. The International Olympic Committee also has its own Twitter account and Facebook page, as well as separate areas for the public and the news media.
"We are at a dawn of a new age of sharing and connecting, and London 2012 will ignite the first conversational Olympic Games, thanks to social media platforms and technology," Alex Huot, the I.O.C.'s head of social media, said via e-mail.
Athletes have taken to Twitter and Facebook with considerable enthusiasm. Rare is the Olympic competitor who does not have a
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