Remember 2008? The Olympics were in Beijing. The Chinese amazed everyone with their precise Opening Ceremony, one that is still discussed with awe four years later.crushed all comers in the swimming pool.
The Twittersphere, however, was little more than a rural Twitterrealm (there were “merely” 6 million adult users on the site, compared to the over 500 million users today). Most people only saw hashtags on the pound key of their touchtone phone. Handles were on suitcases and car doors, not human identities.
How much has changed in four years. The 2012 London Olympiad has been deemed the “Social Media Games” due to the deluge of Facebook and Twitter activity surrounding them. Advances in technology have shaped both how we experience the Olympics and the Games themselves.
NBC is quite aware of how the digital age is shaping the XXX Olympiad. Surprisingly, the network turned what they originally planned as a $200 million loss into a profit. Part of their success could be attributed to how hard they hit online markets. Events can be streamed online in real time. NBC also dedicates a little sliver of their late night coverage to showing how the Games are doing on social media, highlighting who are the most followed, liked, and Googled athletes of the day.
Yes, this sort of coverage may be bordering on mindless filler in attempt to stretch out track and field events until 2 AM. However, it also points to how these Olympics are experienced in more ways by more people than ever before.
Here are three ways technology is changing the Games.
Social media is the defining element of the London Olympics. Most of the favorite athletes (Michael Phelps, the platform blew up, reporting 20 million posts in the span of a few minutes., Gabby Douglas) have been live-tweeting their London experience. China’s Twitter copycat Weibo has also seen lots of action, especially as the Far East power hangs onto a perilous leads in medals. After hurdler gracefully finished his 110-meter hurdle heat with a new injury,
Oscar Pistorius’ Prosthetics
One of the biggest stories of the entire Olympics surrounds South African runner Oscar Pistorius and his prosthetic legs. A double-amputee, Pistorius’ journey to London will be a defining tale of the games. A controversy enveloped Pistorius and his Cheetah blades—he was barred originally because track’s governing body thought his prosthetics may give him a competitive advantage. Although he didn’t reach the final in the men’s 400-meters, his inspiring example shows how technology can make the impossible possible.
The Human Body
The Olympics have always been about how the human body can be pushed to the ultimate limits—who is the fastest on land, in the water, or who is the best at getting horses to jump over stuff? These are the questions the Games answer. Years of training and competing (often with cutting edge technologies) shape Olympians’ bodies into efficient sporting machines. The Olympics allow us to marvel at what the human body can do.