The Olympic Games (and other major sporting events) have an amazing way of uniting countries. In fact, this was the premise behind the movie Invictus, which looked at how Nelson Mandela brought together a splintered nation through the 1995 Rugby World Cup, which South Africa hosted.
But with social networks, and in particular Twitter, this is a very different Olympic Games. Here’s why:
- We can share in the spirit of the Games with a bigger group of people than previously possible (what pub would be big enough to accommodate me and all my followers?);
- We can show our support for athletes in a way that can be tracked, recorded and shared (using tools like Radian6);
- We can make our voices heard (like when silver medalist Dale Begg-Smith barely showed any emotion at the medal ceremonies);
- Share our excitement (or disappointment) before, during and after an event (like when USA beat Canada in tonight’s hockey game);
- Be alerted to an event that we may not already be watching (like the two-man bobsled event that took place while the USA/CDA hockey game was on);
- Find out the status/results of an event without having to watch it or look it up online;
- Use trending topics to see what everyone else (not just those in your immediate network) have to say about a particular event or athlete.
Ultimately, I can see tools like Twitter being used to track comments in real time to influence how broadcasters cover an event; to share thoughts with athletes on big screens immediately following an event; to help advertisers gain feedback on their event sponsorships, and more.
Even NBC has taken an interesting approach with their Twitter Tracker, which is being used to keep viewers in tune with buzz on the Games via Twitter.
But I think the Olympic Games are just the beginning. I suspect that Twitter and other social networks will also impact this year’s Soccer World Cup, which is also being hosted in South Africa.
What do you think? How has Twitter changed the Olympics for you?