TODAY marks the first day of the most anticipated sporting event of the year – the London 2012 Olympics. All the athletes and officials would have already been in London for the days leading up to the event – with their smartphones, tablet devices and laptops in tow.

Yup, London 2012 is being dubbed the first ‘social media’ Olympics, which led to the International Olympic Committee releasing a 15-point ‘social media, blogging and Internet’ guideline for participants.

The last games was held in Beijing, where most of the social networks used by the majority of the world’s digital citizens are banned; plus, social media was only in its infancy a mere four years ago.

Not that the term ‘first’ is that accurate. In 2010, Vancouver hosted the winter Olympics and already social networks were buzzing with activity. But in the eyes of public opinion, the summer Olympics is the one to watch, and what a show it has been already.

In the last few days alone, several high profile incidents have already occurred on social networks. For one, Greek triple jumper Voula Papahristou has been suspended from the country’s Olympic team after making what was considered to be a racist remark on Twitter.

Late last week, when the first batch of athletes were arriving from around theworld, American hurdler Kerron Clement got Twitterverse buzzing when he tweeted that it took his bus four hours to get to the Olympic Village from the airport due to the driver getting lost.

“Athletes are sleepy, hungry and need to pee,” he wrote. The news made front-page headlines in Britain, especially at a time when there has been much criticism of London’s ability to deal with transport issues with the influx of people during the games.

But athletes and their social networks aside, there is much more to expect from the most Net-friendly games. If you’re planning on following the games closely, you might want to download some of the official London 2012 apps, including the Results app which is available for Android, iOS and Windows Phone 7.

These apps are not the only way on the interwebs to keep up-to-date with the Olympics. Media organisations such as the NBC have made plenty of plans to keep its audiences entertained and updated with the goings-on of the next fortnight.

Besides the live stream – expected to be over 3,500 hours worth of live video – it plans to offer, NBC is also teaming up with social service Storify to curate news from the Olympics. Journalists from the news organisation will pull feeds from various social networks including Facebook and Twitter for its website and that of its various TV stations.

Major corporations and sponsors too have been capitalising on social media to sell their brand and products. Already, athletes have been banned for a month from talking about non-Olympic Games-sponsored corporations on their social network. This has led to a stream of sponsored social media updates before the deadline earlier this week.

Then there are those corporations who missed out, trying to make the most of the Olympic buzz without infringing any rules. Nike, for example, released a video (view it at this week celebrating the various ‘Londons’ around the world (in Canada, Nigeria and Norway, among others). Its competitor Adidas is a major sponsor at London 2012.

All this aside, what I am personally interested in seeing is how social media will affect the viewing experience of the Games. Recent history has shown what an impact it has on sporting events. In April, for example, over 13,000 tweets were sent out in a second at one point during the UEFA Champion’s League football final between Chelsea and Barcelona.

These days, whether you’re watching it live at home on the television, or physically at the location of the event, people don’t just passively watch. There’s always a mobile device in your hand – whether you’re tweeting, checking in on FourSquare, posting a photo on Instagram or updating your Facebook status.

This behaviour seriously affects a person’s experience, and you can bet that some sort of social media record will be achieved over the next fortnight.

In many ways, the Olympic Games will never be the same again (pictures and details of the opening ceremony have already leaked from the technical and dress rehearsals). Make no mistake about it, we can’t yet tell whether this will be good or bad, but you can bet it will be social.

Niki Cheong is a MA Digital Culture and Society student at King’s College London. Connect with him online at and

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