London 2012 games have been dubbed as the Social Media Games and Digital Games. Never before has social media impacted a sporting event, like it has during the 2012 Summer Olympics at London. As the games have wrapped up, social media pundits, commentators and users alike are looking back at how social media has affected London 2012.
The impact was fist noticed during the build up to the games. London 2012 was trending as the torch made its way to the Olympic stadium. Even at Trak.in, we covered India’s journey to London 2012 and tweeted about it from Trak.in’s twitter account.
As the games began and in a bizarre turn of events, athletes were suspended from the games for their social media use. Greek athlete Isidoros Kouvelos was suspended and sent home after she tweeted, in attempted humour, "With so many Africans in Greece… the West Nile mosquitoes will at least eat homemade food!!!" Greece’s delegation did not see the humour nor did other users on the micro blogging site.
Although Kouvelos apologized, she was sent home. Nick D’Arcy and Kenrick Monk, both Australian swimmers, were also on the verge of being sent back home after posting pictures of themselves on Twitter, holding guns. Swiss footballer Michel Morganella was also sent home after sending a racist tweet.
For the first time in the history of Olympics, YouTube brought the games live to more than 60 countries. The stream allowed users to choose from a variety of camera angles and choice of devices including PC, tablets and mobiles. Internet-wide, there were more than 63 million live video streams downloaded this time during London 2012 as compared to less than 14 million during Beijing 2008.
As the games progressed, a mass hysteria was witnessed on virtually all social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. There were more than 50 million, or 5 crore tweets about London 2012, estimates Twitter. And when Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt won back to back medals, tweets were being sent at the rate of 80,000 per minute.
From an Indian perspective, London 2012 received comprehensive coverage on online media and received a thumping response from the Indian community on social media. As TOI, NDTV and many other leading Indian news websites were covering London 2012 with live updates, users were quick to share on Facebook and Twitter. A live Olympics blog on TOI attracted nearly 800 comments and has been shared on Facebook and Twitter hundreds of times, over and over again.
Google searches for Sushil Kumar were 375% more than during the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing. Amitabh Bachchan tweeted to nearly 33 lakh followers "Sushil Kumar wins silver for India in wrestling .. a great effort by him under trying circumstances .. ! Jai Hind !!" Apart from senior Bachchan, a host of other celebrities, sports personalities and even politicians including PM Manmohan Singh and Gujarat CM Narendra Modi congratulated the wrestler on winning a Silver Medal at the Olympics.
A similar hysteria across social media was also witnessed when Mary Kom won the Bronze Medal. An unverified Twitter account, @MaryKomIndia with just 10 tweets, has more than 15,000 followers. A Mary Kom Official Facebook page has garnered nearly 40,000 likes and even right now as this post is being published many days after the games have ended, the page continues to receive comments and congratulatory messages.
For the first time ever, Indian athletes were also seen communicating with the masses on social media. 2008 Olympic Gold medallist Abhinav Bindra chatted to numerous Twitter users including Harsha Bhogle about his performance at London 2012. His Twitter account now has a following in excess of 23,000.
The effect of social media on London 2012 is unprecedented. Athletes were suspended, discussed about, and celebrated as commoners, celebrities and even politicians took part in online discussions.
Viewers updated themselves on scores and other latest news via social media feeds before they were broadcasted on traditional media like TV and newspapers. Most importantly, London 2012 has shown India and the world the power and outreach of social media.