The role of technology in sport has been increasing with almost every major sporting competition. During the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Facebook had a paltry 100 million people signed up, now over 900 million people keep in touch, advertise and criticize via the social media network. Dubbed ‘the first social media Olympics’, London 2012 will see the highest use of the internet ever at the event.
The ‘Twitter Games’
These Olympics will see the biggest audience involvement to date. Besides the obvious and obligatory creation of an official Facebook page, Twitter account, etc, The International Olympic Committee (IOC) offers ‘a searchable directory’ of every verified Olympian on social media. The Olympic Athlete’s Hub will include athlete profiles that track their activity across multiple networks so that all information is available in one place. Spectators will also have unprecedented access to athletes via their own pages, Instagram, Foursquare and Tumblr, on which the IOC is also active. And in case you miss anything it’s unlikely that someone’s status won’t get you up to speed. The ‘theatre’ of sport’ will truly take on new meaning.
Needless to say not everyone is as diplomatic as may be required and with the IOC stating that their athletes and affiliates are ‘role models 24-7′, there will be a lot of on-line refereeing to be done. Sir Clive Woodward, director of sport for TeamGB told the BBC -“TeamGB is over a thousand people. It’s not only athletes, you’ve got coaches and support staff. The chances of somebody saying something that’s a bit out of line is probably pretty high”. This was proven last year when British triple jumper Phillips Idowu tweeted that he was pulling out of the European Championships. Probably not the most appropriate way to announce a resignation. Cases like this have seen strict guidelines issued for the 2,014 verified Olympians using the internet, as well as the volunteers.
The 70,000-plus volunteers have received a complete blanket ban on using any networking tools to discuss the games. The ‘Games Makers’ are prohibited from mentioning anything more than the fact that they will be volunteering at the Olympics – any disclosure of their location, breaking news concerning athletes, diplomats or VIPS, backstage footage or re-tweets about the games will result in immediate dismissal. So much for getting the inside track. However, information like this can pose huge security threats, something London is sadly all together too familiar with, so all the secrecy is not without good reason.
In possibly the most innovate use of Twitter to date, the mood of Olympic and Paralympic tweeters will dictate the colour of the London Eye. A networking light-show first that will happen every evening at 9pm and will hopefully portray the positivity that tweeters have been feeling so far. The algorithms used to track the sentiments of an expected 100,000 British Olympic tweeters will make the Eye glow yellow if most people leave positive Olympic tweets, purple for negative and green for neutral.
According to the Telegraph.co.uk, “Sentiment analysis is becoming a big industry. It is used by many marketing companies and brands to track how a company is being perceived in real time”. And when it comes to the Olympics, ‘real time’ is exactly what will matter most.