I love the Olympic Games. Regardless of the sport, I love watching the pure raw and honest emotions felt by the athletes while they’re competing at the highest levels. As a former college athlete myself (although definitely NOT of Olympic caliber), I appreciate the feeling you get when competing while representing an entity beyond just yourself.

Some people are calling the London Olympics the first real-time Games. I am one of the estimated 4.9 billion viewers worldwide with access to coverage across multiple NBC platforms: 3,500 hours of live coverage on nine TV channels and all 32 sports streaming live online or via their NBC Olympics Live Extra mobile applications. Since I can’t be in London or in front of a TV all day, I have been using my laptop, tablet, and smartphone to watch the Games wherever and whenever I can. And I’m not alone. NBC’s video streaming of the 2012 London Olympic Games so far has produced 64 million views across all devices, 182% more than for the 2008 Beijing Games. But the most notable gains have been on mobile, which has accounted for 45% of all online viewing of the event. Also, did you notice that during the Parade of Nations, that almost EVERYONE had a mobile phone in their hand?

As the most connected Olympic Games ever, brands are taking advantage of digital, social, and mobile communications. It was interesting to read what some brands were (or weren’t) planning in the realm of mobile marketing. Mobile marketing leaders like P&G and Coca-Cola realize the importance of the mobile device. Coca-Cola stated that, “mobile is at the heart and foundation of our strategy for London 2012.” Nathan Homer, Olympic Project Director from P&G, referenced their digital first marketing strategy saying, “We aim to use the best media to get the message across, and design the content to work around that.”

The potential risk of relying on mobile for your brand’s marketing efforts at a high-traffic event like the Olympics, of course, is that the carriers struggle with the severe spikes in network traffic. High-quality, streaming video and fans posting thousands of photos per minute ties up a lot of bandwidth. The opening ceremonies communications spike forced the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to put out a statement asking Londoners to prioritize text messages, tweets, and other mobile communications. Ten million tweets were posted during the opening ceremonies, more than what occurred during ALL of the 2008 Beijing Games.

BT, the official communications services provider for London 2012, partnered with Telefonica O2 to increase capacity in the stadiums, build temporary sites across the country, and make sure there are 500,000 hot spots in and around London to make life easier for mobile fans and help them save on roaming charges.

Four years is the customary time for athletes to train and for cities to prep for the Summer Games, but in terms of mobile technology and consumer behavior, four years is a more than generation of time. With all that’s changed since 2008, hopefully the live attendees and the fans around the world are the real winners in the experience of the Olympic Games this year. I can’t wait to see what mobile will bring to the Games in Rio in 2016.