This is the first article in a Sport Techie series leading up to the London 2012 Olympic Games. Stay tuned for more as the Games of the XXX Olympiad approach:
The global social media sphere is buzzing about the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and with good cause. London 2012 organizers are betting big on social media and have taken steps to ensure unprecedented access during the two week event.
The LOCOG (London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games), in partnership with sponsors like Panasonic, Cisco, Acer, and more, has undertaken the colossal project that is technology at these Olympic Games. A majority of the work has been behind the scenes, such as beefing up Wi-Fi in the Olympic Village and insuring their overall infrastructure can hold up to the expected traffic.
London is expecting close to 11 million visitors between July 27th and August 12th and many of them will come equipped with smart phones. The monumental task of insuring a smooth couple of weeks has fallen to London 2012 CIO Gary Pennell, who is employing over 450 “technologists” and 640,000 man hours to maintain the expansive project.
LOCOG has also gone beyond building a solid infrastructure and is using technology to manage personnel as well. A trunked radio network was constructed from scratch for emergency services and will also serve as a back-up mobile network. Atos Origin, who was present at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, has once again built an online portal to help manage the 70,000 volunteers that will be working at London 2012.
Beyond ensuring a cool running (get it?), London 2012 will feature social media tools that give fans unprecedented access to their favorite athletes. The IOC has launched an “Olympic Hub” that consolidates the various social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc, into one easy to navigate space, where fans can search by athlete and event.
The Olympic Hub alone has 2.8 million likes on Facebook. And this is just the beginning of the social media frenzy that is sure to take over in London. Currently London 2012 has had 4 million views on YouTube, 600,000 plus Twitter followers, and a significant following on Facebook. This is all with over a month to go before the games!
With the London 2012 social media wave in full effect athletes are getting swept up in the action as well. The IOC is actively encouraging athletes to maintain a presence on twitter and other social networks, albeit with some eyebrow raising rules. With over 10,000 participating athletes there is an overwhelming amount of content out there for fans to dig through. This is where the Olympic Hub comes in handy. It consolidates all the individual athlete’s social media accounts into one easy to navigate portal. Its search feature allows athletes easier access to a targeted audience. The hub also offers exclusive content and rewards the most active users. The Olympic Hub will be extremely important in generating free exposure to all involved.
This social media explosion at the Olympics is poised to produce some truly great content but it has not been without dangers and frustrations. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has released an obnoxious four page pamphlet regarding social media rules for athletes and fans, which have led some nations to cry foul. Already two Australian swimmers are banned from using social media during the games and will be sent home immediately after their events are over. This is all after the pair tweeted a picture of themselves posing with rifles at a California gun range (after a deadly spree shooting in Port Arthur in 1996, Australians are very sensitive when it comes firearms).
This decision comes from the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) rather than the IOC, but there is no doubt about the pressure the IOC is putting on nations to monitor their athlete’s social media. On top of imposing restrictions on athletes there even stricter rules for fans attending events. The “conditions for ticket holders” which are printed on the back of tickets include this gem: Images, video and sound recordings of the Games taken by a Ticket Holder cannot be used for any purpose other than for private and domestic purposes. It goes on for a few more sentences when, in reality, it should just say “no can know you were here.”
Social media restrictions and gaffes aside, London 2012 is betting big on social media and with good cause. “Access” seems to be the unofficial motto of the games, and the LOCOG and IOC are doing everything imaginable to insure that access is unprecedented.