The 2012 Olympic games in London are underway, and this is the first time when social media will have a huge presence during the games.
It’s only natural in this digital age that media and patrons of the events will post results as soon as they happen. Which is great; instant access to information (within the IOC’s social media restrictions) has never been a bad thing. But how does it affect the broadcasting of the games here in the U.S.?
NBC has come under fire for their broadcasting of the games since the opening ceremonies Friday night, most notably with the decision to air a tape delay of the men’s 400 IM almost five hours after the event was held.
A lot of the emotion that comes from watching athletics events is derived from the unknown. What will happen? Will my favorite win? Will the underdog pull through? The whole point of watching these events is to answer the question “Who will win?”
With the prevalence and easy access of social media, those at the games can tell us who won before we even have a chance to see it ourselves. If the ultimate payout of watching the event is to see the action unfold leading up to the answer of the question of who won, why would I watch it if I already knew the outcome?
The men’s 400 IM was at 2:30 EST time, and the only way to watch it live was online. Half way through the race my feed froze, and didn’t reload until the race was over. A quick check of Twitter heeded the results: Ryan Lochte won gold, the first gold medal for the U.S. in these games, and Phelps placed fourth. The race would be broadcast on NBC later that night.
I understand this is not the first time it has been done. And I know I have probably watched many of events on a tape delay and still derived the same satisfaction out of watching the action without already knowing the results. But with the unlimited access to information these days, nothing is a surprise anymore. If you miss it, you miss it. And all this tape delay can’t help but leave me feeling a little cheated these games.
I remember watching the men’s 4×100 relay in 2008. Twitter was foreign to me, and the idea of “subscribing” or following news outlets on Facebook wasn’t quite a reality. I remember watching that race, with the enthusiasm and anxiousness of a former swimmer, I knew that race and I was completely emotionally invested in the outcome. I went nuts in my room, screaming and yelling and jumping in front of the TV, cheering the U.S. team on. Is he going to catch him? The race is so close! Who will touch first? I was a ball of anxiety and excitement, and when Jason Lezak touched first, winning the U.S. team the gold, I lost it. I watched something amazing. And it was amazing because I experienced all the emotion that went along with it.
I can try the whole “stay off social media until I can watch the event,” but this isn’t the season finale of The Walking Dead.This is the Olympics. Plus I live on Twitter, for work and play. Everyone is talking about it and every news outlet is writing about it. There are no “spoiler alerts” before informative tweets. It’s all out there. I guess I’ll just have to keep glued to my laptop.