London 2012 – seen through social media

We are off on a DorkyHoliday this week, but I’ve got a few guest posts lined up to keep the blog busy. This rather fabulous one that I’m kicking off with is from Being Mrs C, who you can find blogging here and tweeting here.

When Sir Tim Berners-Lee appeared in the London Olympics opening ceremony there were probably a fair few people watching around the world who wondered who he was and why he was there. Being the geeky engineering type that I am I knew exactly who he was (I’ve even seem him speak once) but even still I thought the idea of celebrating the role of the internet and all things digital in an Olympic opening ceremony a bit surprising. But then again so was the inclusion of Mr Bean and Her Majesty the Queen parachuting in!

I’ve watched an awful lot of Olympic action over these two weeks – being 8 months pregnant and exhausted by running after a toddler was my excuse. However whilst watching previous games during the daytime was a solitary affair, courtesy of Twitter the London 2012 experience has been more like having a load of friends in my living room with me. Along with my immediate Twitter friends are some of the athletes themselves, their families and friends, some subject matter experts and also a load of journalist who are close to the action.

In just a few hours today I’ve watched outdoor swimming in the Serpentine, dancing horses, women’s boxing and now some sort of martial art where I’m honestly not sure what it is. During all of these I’ve ended up chatting to people on twitter about what I’m watching. There have been discussions about just how tough swimming 10km outdoors is, delight at the fantastic patriotic music used in team GB’s gold winning dressage, praise for the winner of the first ever women’s boxing Olympic gold and now a debate about how WTF taekwondo (which is apparently what I’m watching) is different to “regular” taekwondo. All of this completely beats sitting with just a toddler for company and not having a clue what is going on. The Olympics have become interactive and much more inclusive as a result.

Between us all we’ve managed to piece together the rules (or at least the aim) for most of the sports we’ve watched and had quite a few laughs in the process; a prize probably has to go to the woman who managed to explain all of judo to me in just 140 characters. Where we couldn’t figure it out between us sports journalists have been asked to fill in the gaps and it’s fair to say all of us have been in complete awe of Clare Balding’s encyclopaedic knowledge of all Olympic events!

Twitter has allowed us to all get so much closer to the action than at any previous games, especially to the athletes themselves. The TV news has picked up on the story of the Venezuelan boxer spotted on the DLR with his newly acquired gold medal and the Rwanda team caught in an Instagram shot at someone’s local bus stop, but there have been hundreds of other encounters with athletes across London that ordinary people have captured and shared. News of all the big wins has been shared and celebrated in real time – one person I follow even seemed to find time to update things during Chris Hoy’s Keirin race – meaning that if you can’t watch things live you’re still on top of all the action. Travelling home from the tennis on “Super Saturday” the easiest way to keep up with Team GB’s results in the Olympic stadium was to read twitter – updated far faster than any website was.

“Inspire a Generation” was one of the mottos of these games and seeing the pictures that friends have posted on Facebook and Twitter it’s working. I’ve seen photos of children at Olympic venues around the country, pictures of them proudly wearing Team GB shirts and, in some lucky cases, posing with members of Team GB. There have also been quotes repeated by proud parents along the lines of “when I am grown up I want to swim in the ‘lympics”. Mini-Olympics tournaments have been organised in back gardens and local parks, medals made from everything from cardboard to milk-bottle tops and many, many pictures drawn of people stood on podiums. If these snapshots from across social media sites don’t show an inspired generation then I don’t know what will.

Long after all the athletes have gone home people will still be talking about these games online. The photographs, videos and news articles will remain, as will the blog posts about children’s experiences of the games. Search engines will hit on reminders of London 2012 for years to come and it will be remembered for being the first truly social media Olympic games. Technology will have moved on further by Rio in 2016 and it will be fascinating to see the role that social media and the internet takes then.

All this leaves me with one burning question though – how on earth had Danny Boyle predicted all of this when he first sent an email to Tim Berners-Lee suggesting that he take on a role in the Olympic opening ceremony?

2 responses

  1. Pingback: London 2012 – seen through social media

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