London 2012 Olympics: social media's biggest hurdle

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Britain’s biggest ever broadcasting challenge

The Olympics is one of the biggest world events. And it pulls a pretty spectacular amount of spectators. Adding to this, the UK are hosting these Olympics for the first time since 1948. On top of this, the technology the world uses to broadcast these games are obviously at their peek. And the mediums that are used are as plentiful and diverse as ever.

Britain’s challenge (more specifically the BBC) will be tackled with a number of innovative ‘firsts’. The Olympics on the BBC will harbour 24 simultaneous live HD streams, allowing the audience to view every event from the first thing at the morning, until last thing at night. Alongside this, 3D technology will be used for the opening, closing ceromonies, 100m final and nightly highlights and ‘Super High Vision’ (16x the quality of HD) will be available at selective places across the country.

Although these are challenges, they are ‘planned’ challenges. The beauty and danger of social media is that its so sporadic. This inevitably means that BBC will have little control over its content, but will have a lot of decisions to make regarding its integration with the broadcasting and reporting of the Olympic Games.

As this is the first Olympics where social media has such a significant influence, I look into what this means for all the parties involved:

Social Media for athletes

Social Media for athletes

Like high profile celebrities and sports personalities that use social media, athletes will inherit an enormous amount of power over the games. And with power comes responsibility.


  •  Humanising with their audience – Social media gives (and will give) the ability for athletes to connect directly with their fans/spectators. This is primarily fun for the athletes themselves, allowing them to report on the ‘behind the scenes’ elements of the games. This gives them more opportunities to converse with their audience on a personal level, adding to their experience of being an athlete in the games. Social media gives them the opportunity to share this experience.
  • Endorsements – Zac Purchase, Olympic rower and gold medallist in the Beijing Olympic Games interestingly stated that sport and athletics is increasingly becoming more like a ‘business’. Social media (most specifially twitter – as most of these examples relate to) is another effective tool into allowing the athletes to endorse certain products and services, allowing them to cater for the ‘business’ side of the profession in perhaps a more subtle way.


  •  Could effect their performance – Having a unpoliced, unfiltered stream of comments coming directly to the athlete may have a detrimental effect to their mindset close to and around their event. Negative comments may affect an athlete psychologically – and therefore must decide whether social media is a necessary thing to focus on around the events.
  • Security within the games – Tweets by athletes behind the scenes could unintentionally lead to security issues. For example, an athlete tweeting about a Royal being in the vicinity may encourage unprecedented crowds, that will need to be controlled. Athletes will need to use their common sense in situations like these.

Social Media for journalists

Social Media for journalistsSocial media has become an invaluable tool for journalists, as they have the ability to capitalise on its ‘as it happens’ nature to find the inside scoops before anyone else.


  •  Having the ability to break smaller, but interesting pockets of news – Some news may be exclusive, but not necessarily television worthy (see James Pearce’s tweet above for an example). Having social media as a medium to break these pockets of news allow the journalists to raise their profile by appealing to the people who have an interest.
  • Keep in the loop with all the goings on, instantly and from several different sources – Social media is usually straight from the horses mouth, and this allows journalists to keep track of several different sources – communicating with them too if necessary.


  • Social media sources may not be accurate – Some sources maybe a rumour spread, or a fictional story. This means that journalists will have to verify any leads in order to maintain their credibility. This may lead to more work for them in the long run.
  • Have to be careful not to break a ‘television worthy story too soon – Most journalists work for a company that thrives on big exclusive stories. Journalists will have to be careful not to tread on their employers toes, and to ensure they are not diluting the story being broken by releasing it too early.

Social media for the audience

Social Media for the audience

‘The second screen’

Social media as been described as the second screen. It is sometimes the commenting screen that shows an incite or ‘behind the scenes’ look into what goes on in the first screen (the television).


  • 24 hour behind the scenes pass to the Olympics – No matter how it is integrated, social media will obviously provide an abundance of entertainment for the audience. Social media provides lots of avenues of information, and the audience can decide what information they want to look for, in order to heighten their Olympic experience.
  • Have the ability to converse and encourage the athletes directly – Social media not only allows the audience to keep track of what others are saying, but it gives a rare opportunity to talk to them directly. The thought of the audience genuinely being able to converse with the athletes directly during the Olympics is obviously an exciting one.


  •  Integration with television could ruin the ‘second screen’ experience – A question that the BBC have asked is whether or not Social media should become part of the broadcast (feeding tweets into the studio etc). Although this seems like a logical forward thinking step, this may actually be detrimental to the social media experience – as part of its appeal is the commentary off screen, that is almost ‘exclusive’ to twitter/facebook users.
  • Integration with television could frustrate non social media users – What can be forgotten is that only a small percentage (6million out of the projected 40+ million projected BBC televsion viewers) will be using social media. This again means that pushing this new medium could alienate the people who are less familiar with it.

A jump in social media in the UK

The Olympics is a perfect opportunity for social media to raise its own profile to the British public, and no doubt it would have grown in size and presence after the games are over. If you’re interested in the opinions of the groups above, have an hour free in your day and are bit of a social media nerd (like me) I recommend you have a watch of the video below. It’ll definitely begin to get you in the mood for the festivities ahead!