The Olympic Games are the most watched sporting event, ahead of the Football World Cup and the Tour de France, generating unequalled interest worldwide, with social networks enabling athletes to share their unique experiences with their fans.
The age of no access is over! Nowadays, the stars of the Olympics stay as close as possible to their supporters, thanks to new technologies, and especially social networks. From Facebook to Twitter, the gladiators of the modern age share their feelings with their fans in real time, via status changes, personal posts and touching tweets.
Yannick Agnel, the French swimmer who had just become the 200 m men’s freestyle Olympic champion, posted a nice message for his fans on his Facebook account a few minutes later: “It’s a childhood dream come true, an indescribable joy… The top of Mount Olympus is narrow, but there is definitely room for all of us, because your unwavering support has lifted me up. So, from the bottom of my heart, I say thank you, thank you, thank you!” And the French swimmer is far from alone in expressing himself in this way…
C’est un rêve de gosse qui se réalise, un bonheur indescriptible … Le sommet de l’olympe est étroit, mais il y… fb.me/1dq1fhxzm
— Yannick Agnel (@YannickAgnel) Juillet 30, 2012
In fact, social networks offer total freedom of expression for athletes, who no longer need to adhere to the traditional code of a televised interview to express what they are feeling in the moment. No more being tongue-tied; today’s stars talk about their Olympic adventures on Twitter, Facebook and even Instagram, as if they were propping up the bar in a café, chatting to friends. This communication method also enables athletes to support one another; Tony Parker, the basketball player, used it to congratulate Tony Estanguet, the kayaker, after being crowned Olympic Champion for the third time.
Champion olympiqueeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee !!!!!!!!!!! Félicitations à Tony Estanguet !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
— tony Parker (@tp9network) Juillet 31, 2012
Beware of going too far!
As Spiderman’s uncle used to say : with great power comes great responsibilities. Given Twitter’s huge reach, you cannot tweet everything and anything, as Paraskevi Papachristou, the Greek athlete, found out to her cost. The triple-jumper actually found herself expelled from the Games before the competition had even begun, for publishing a comment with racist overtones on her Twitter page.
Another Twitter-related controversy broke out following the opening ceremony, which was not shown live on the US NBC channel. Guy Adams, the British journalist, had been highly critical of this situation, inviting dissatisfied viewers to contact the person responsible for the channel’s coverage of the Games, mentioning this individual’s business email address in his tweet. Twitter took the view that Adams had broken the rules, and blocked his account, before overturning its decision following complaints from users.
The power of Twitter requires no further demonstration; nonetheless, the Games’ organisers were certainly not expecting to see the famous social network spoil the party during the road cycling event. Throughout the race, the organisers were unable to announce the distance between the breakaway and the peloton, as the GPS modules attached to the bikes turned out to be useless, due to the heavy tweet traffic along the route! Could over-tweeting actually be dangerous ? We’ve heard it all now…
To finish, we invite you to take a short detour via the Olympic Hub, a platform that enables you to gain access to your favourite athletes, via their social networking spaces. As you will see, many of them are sharing their Olympic experiences online, and LeBron James, one of the best basketball players in the world, ranks first among the stars with the most followers, with over 17 million active fans, closely followed by Kobe Bryant, his US teammate (13.7 million), and Roger Federer, the tennis player (11.2 million). The first woman in the rankings is Maria Sharapova (7.8 million), in 8th place. You need to go down to 40th place to find any sign of a Frenchman, namely Tony Parker (1 million).