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1. Background:

As continually emphasized by the London 2012 Olympic Committee, the London Olympic Games is branded as the ‘First Social Media Olympics’ . For the first time, social media is being used as an official media channel to release information and organize online activities.
1.pngIn the past four years, there has been an incredible growth of social media users. In 2008, there were only 100 million users on Facebook and 6 million active users on Twitter. Now these numbers have already reached 901 million and 140 million. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, there was no official integrated social media promotion channel. However, the London 2012 Olympic Committee formed a social media team particularly responsible for updating the official Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media channels everyday. According to a report produced by a French technology company, Atos Origin, there will be 8.5 billion PCs, tablets and smart phones been used in the London Olympic Games. Another survey from Taylor indicates that 1/5 of people in the United States say that they will reach for a laptop, mobile device, or tablet instead of tuning to the TV when watching and following the Olympic Games. Despite an official Twitter account, a Facebook page, and a YouTube channel. The Olympic Committee also published a site called the Olympics Athlete Hub for integrating official athletes’ Twitter and Facebook accounts to build a community between athletes and their fans.

In my paper, I will first treat social media a the subjective matter and use mediology theory to examine the implications of social media use in the London Olympic Games. Then use mediation theory to examine how the official Olympic website and the Olympic Athletes' Hub been designed to use social media elements to promote Olympic values.

2. Theories: Mediology and Mediation

Mediology theory is developed by the French intellectual, Regis Debray, to discusses how an abstract idea or concept could be transformed into material forces and the power of concepts and ideas . He started to look at how the abstract avatar, the God, had changed the ancient Rome society by the interaction of economical, political, cultural, religious and productivity factors. Nowadays, mediology theories are always used to examine how the development of technology is inspired by social contexts and how our society is shaped by new technologies.

There are three major ways to think as a mediologist. The first one is to think through technologies. For example, after the invention of the bicycle, what changes? How has our society been shaped by the bicycle? The second one is to think through an anthropology point of view. As Marshall Mcluhan claimed, media is the tool to extend of our body. For example, we created bicycle as an expansion of our feet. The last way is to think through beliefs. What could be avatars of beliefs and how could an avatar be used to express a belief? For example, social media could be the avatar of democracy, because everyone can publish their opinions via social media.

The mediation and representation theory discuss that all of our lives has been presented as an “immense accumulation of spectacles” . According to Guy Debord, “the spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images” . That is to say visual images is usually designed to reflect a social and cultural perspective. The design of London Olympic Games websites and the Olympic Athletes' Hub are a remediation of social, cultural and economical images and values.

3. Implications of The Social Media Use In the London Olympic Games

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In the London 2012 Olympic Games, there are five major social media channels that are being used. They are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, the London Olympic official website and the Olympic Athletes' Hub. Among them, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are dominant social media websites exist before. London Olympic official website is the special channel for promoting the London Olympic concept and the Athletes Hub is used as an integration information board and a discussion community. Different from traditional Olympic media corporation model, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube’s logos will also become non-Olympic sponsor logos that appear in the Olympics. On the use of social media channels, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube don't even have competitors. What inspire the International Olympic Committee to use social media as one official media channel? Why do they choose this time point as a starting point? What are implications of this strategy?

3.1 Technology Development

The social media use of London Olympic Games directly implies a fast development of technology. Four yeas ago, in the Beijing Olympic Games, there was no tablet. 3G wireless networks had not been broadly used, especially in China. The idea, smartphone was just been introduced by HTC and iPhone. Fewer applications designed for smartphone. Nokia and its Symbian system still led the mobile industry. However, in 2012, there are more than 1.08 billion smartphone users all over the world. 84% of them use Internet Browsing, 69% of them used downloaded apps, and 59% of them use social networking site (click here). According to the official data, “the Technology Operations Center of London Olympic Games will be able to process 30% more results data that Beijing 2008 Olympics to meet rapidly increasing demands of fans for information anytime and everywhere”. That is to say, the social media use in the London Olympic Games is supported by a fast technology development in the past four years.
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From 2G to 3G and 4G
Until 2012, 3G technology has been wildly used all over the world. Comparing to 2G networks, 3G mobile network not only increases the information transfer rate, but also covers a wider range of services and provides an advanced network capacity (Wikipedia). 3G will be a guaranteed technique that supports mobile TV, instant social media updates, video and photo upload and immediate interactions between athletes and fans during the London Olympic Games. In four years, the network of telecommunication system has a fast development. Currently, 4G mobile network has started to use in the South Korea, United States and Britain. They will provide users ultra-broadband Internet to access high-definition mobile TV, video discussion and 3D television.

Social Media Mobile Apps
According to the official data from Facebook, there are 425 million users access Facebook from a mobile device every month. For the London Olympic Games, both Facebook and Twitter provides app for tablets and mobile. Twitter also has a BlackBerry version mobile app and it allows non-smartphone users to tweet via texting. YouTube app is originally been embedded in iOS system, Android system and Windows Phone system. These apps allow users to join in Olympic discussion instantly.

Social Plugins

Social plugin is a technique developed by social media websites to embed a ‘Like’, ‘Comment’, ‘Follow’ or other functional buttons to your website in order to allow your audiences share and comment on social media websites easily. These social plugins appears on the London Olympic website everywhere to allow users to share news, results and commentary about Olympic Games via social media channels. Twitter Plugins allow website designers to embedded a real-time information network in the website. The Olympic Athletes' Hub use the plugin technique to embed athletes' tweets to the website as a display board. During Olympic Games, it will be a instant update of athletes to fans.

3.2 Olympic is Unique

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After the London Olympic Committee branded the London Olympic Games as the first social media Olympic Games and Twitter Olympics, there is a continually discussion of whether this strategy will succeed. In the Social Media Week held in this February in London, there was a panel named “Social Media, the Olympics & BBC – Preparing for London 2012”. On this panel, the BBC director, the BBC TV presenter and former medalists got together to discuss the use of the Olympic Athletes' Hub. One medalist doubted how many athletes would like to update their status before a game, considering they may want to concentrate on their competition. Athletes need to be so careful about their words, because media can capture any sentence or word and distort its original meaning. Also, it is obvious that social media channels, Facebook and Twitter, are only effective in limited number of countries, like U.S., U.K., or Australia. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are blocked in China and don’t cover most Asian markets, Brazil and East European Country. Also, people want to watch live games, not online reviews. At the 85 days left to the opening of London Olympic Games, there are only 294,651 fans of the official Facebook Page, which is a really bad number. What is more, Kobe Bryant’s twitter hasn’t been update for almost a year.

Although, The International Olympic Committee encourages athletes and audiences using social media channels to share experiences, there is also a policy to limit users’ behavior. The International Olympic Committee published the IOC (the International Olympic Committee) Social Media, Blogging and Internet Guidelines for participants and other accredited persons at the London Olympic Games to protect Olympic images and sponsors’ rights. It says:

  • “The IOC encourages participants and other accredited persons to post comments on social media platforms or websites and tweet during the Olympic Games, and it is entirely acceptable for a participant or any other accredited person to do a personal posting, blog or tweet. However, any such postings, blogs or tweets must be in a first-person, diary-type format and should not be in the role of a journalist.”
  • “Participants and other accredited person cannot post any video and/or audio of the events, competitions or any other activities which occur at Olympic Venues.”
  • “Participants and other accredited persons are not permitted to promote any brand, product or service within a posting, blog or tweet or otherwise on any social media platforms or on any websites.”

These limits for volunteers and athletes will make people disappointed about the information quality on social media platforms. Many volunteers have already decided to stay far away from social media apps during the Olympics in case of any improperly use on social media websites. These regulations will decline the excitements and participating rate of social media discussions.

However, not all voices are negative, because Olympic is always unique. Different from the Football World Cup and the Super Bowl Game, Olympic Games is an integration of all kinds of sports competition. Several games may be scheduled at the same time. Audiences can only choose one to watch at one time, but they will follow the results of other games through social media channels. Also, there is time difference all over the world, which means people cannot watch all the games. Audiences will use social media to follow the results. Different from the official news, social media platforms allow audiences to stand with people who support same team or athlete with them. Fans will use social media platforms to share their thoughts while they are watching a game. According to the 2012 Consumer Engagement Survey: Social Media And the Olympic Games, mothers are big fans of Olympics and they are really engage in the social media. They will use social media to provide commentaries, share content and interested in connect with other people. Not only Olympic audiences and fans, athletes also have reasons to use the social media channel. One could be athletes can use social media channel to clarify any negative report of them or commentary about them at the first time. Another reason could be, athletes can have chance to communication with their fans to gain supportive while they meet difficulties.

3.3 Cultural Concept

Global Language: English

Facebook and Twitter are two U.S. based social media companies and most of their users all over the world are English speakers including people form U.S., U.K., Australia and Canada. The 2012 Olympic Games happen to hold in U.K., a English language country. We can imagine, if 2012 Olympics were hold in China or Brazil, Twitter and Facebook won’t be officially broadly used, because the dominant social media tool in China and Brazil are QQ and Orkut. The Olympic Athletes' Hub only provide English version currently and most athlete including those from non-English-speaking countries will use English as their major tweeting language. However, English is only the second official language for the Olympic Games. On the Athletes' Hub, there is a section automatically list the popular sports stars according the number of their twitter followers. For the top 50 athletes, most of them are American athletes and English speakers. Rafael Nadal is the only star in top ten that use Spanish in tweets. Athletes like Roger Federer are using English as their tweeting language, because English is more global and can reach more fans.

Olympics Is Far More than A Game

As we all know, Olympic Games is far more than a general game. It is a materialized avatar of Olympic values like respect, friendship, courage, determination, inspiration and equality. These values can be broadly spread via joining in competitions, joining in Olympic activities and appreciating Olympic competitions.

“Inspire A Generation” is the slogan of the London Olympic Games. This slogan reinforces their promise when they won the bid to encourage more young people into sports. Social media is obviously a good platform to attract young people to engage in. According to a research named Fast Facts on Social Media and User Age: Who’s On Facebook and Twitter, more Facebook users are 18 to 25 years old and there are also about 10% users are 13 to 17 years old. As Douglas Alden Warshaw, the co-founder of First-Person Communications said, “social media will not only be interesting for real time, but also as the younger demographic programming guide”. Social media channel is the easiest channel that allows young people all over the world to communicate with their favorite athlete. Athletes will be work as opinion leaders to courage them to engage in sports by sharing their stories and experiences.

The mission of Olympic Spirit is "to build a peaceful and better world in the Olympic Spirit which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play”. The use of social media is a directly promotion of “mutual understanding” and “friendship”. Communication is the way to avoid and resolve misunderstanding. Social media channels in the London Olympic Games is used to increase communication among athletes, fans, volunteers, judges and organizers from different cultures and countries. On social media platforms, people can make new friends by discussing same topics and sharing same interests. While people from different culture are supporting a same athlete, they are sharing a common value.

Fan culture is another culture that values by the Olympic Games. Fans are not only passive audience of Olympic Games, but active promoters, developers and participators. In each Olympic Games, the host city not only responsible for organizing competitions for professional athletes, but also responsible to promote Olympic values and cultures through a variety kinds of activities including education program, cultural events and all kinds of events to let people participate in sports. Social media is good platforms to organize online activities. It not only allows people in London city to participant in the Olympics, but also allows people all over the world to participant in the Olympics. Currently, the Olympic Athletes' Hub has started to run their first online contest named “I Copy U”. It is a photo contest to encourage fans to imitate their favorite star’s pose, take a photo and post it on twitter. By using the Hub, the Olympic Committee is trying to build a community through the Hub. In this community, fans not only can gain some virtual prize, like virtual medals or badges, but also actual prizes, for example, a mascot. Also fans got chance to communicate with their favorite stars. We can imagine that while people are seeing Kobe Bryant’s twitter account is listed on the Athletes Hub, his fans will start to use the Hub, because they think Kobe Bryant is using the Hub.

I Copy U Contest
That is to say, no matter the social media channels in the London Olympics will success, it is a correct action that the Olympic Committee starts to use social media as an official media perform, because the value of social media is so corresponded with the values of the Olympic Games. The use of social media strategy can emphasize several core values of the Olympic Games, like friendship, young generation, and understanding. The use of social media channels may not success in the London Olympic Games, but it will be continually use in the following Olympic Games to encourage more people to get involved.

4. Remediation: London 2012 Olympic Official Website and Olympic Athletes' Hub

Because of the correspondence of social media values and the Olympic values, the London Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee are get together to promote the use of social media channels through the London 2012 Olympic Games Website and the Olympic Athletes' Hub. These two websites can be treated as spectacles of social relations. Through the remediation of these two websites, the social media values stand out.

4.1 London 2012 Olympic Website

The London 2012 Olympics official website is a good promotion to encourage people to use social media to participate in the Olympics. While your are opening the official website of the London Olympic Games, you will find the social media websites’ logos on the right top corner, between the main menu and the news gallery and at the bottom of the page. Although these logos are not large, they could count as active promotions, because these places are where other websites and blogs used to plug in social media buttons. For the most websites, designers put contact information on the right top corner and at the bottom of the page, so if users are looking at a contact information, they will notice that the Olympic Committee is encourage people to use social media channels to reach organizers. Putting plugin buttons on the top of news images shows the Olympic Committee is encouraging people to share news via social media channels. As we all know, Olympic Games emphasize the participation and community values, so these values have been remediated as social media icons by the website. Another thing to notice is that these logos have already broken the logo use law in the Olympic Games because non-sponsors’ logos are not allowed to appear in the Olympic Games in the past. Social media websites can break the rule because they are new things. Old Olympic partnership law is not work in this situation. Olympic Committee is still trying to test what will be a good model to bring in social media brands as their partners.
Despite a visual promotion of the social media channels, there are also some soft promotions of social media channels on the Olympic website. Almost all video in the news are embedded from their official YouTube channel. In the past, the video is usually directly uploaded to the website in case of abusing. A YouTube video is easy for people to share make comments and even download. Through the YouTube channel, Olympic values can be broadcast to a broader markets especially young generation. An inspiration video about international inspiration ambassadors teaching poor kids to play football has gained many comments from David Beckham’s fans. The value of sharing happiness and helping each other has been highlighted through a remediating process.

4.2 Olympic Athletes' Hub

The Olympic Athletes’ Hub was published on the 100-day countdown of Olympics. It was a perfect timing to attract most media to pay attention on this website. The Olympic Athletes’ Hub is a website to bring together social media updates from Olympian athletes, and offer fans direct access to their favorite athlete. This hub not only show sports fans an insider’s look of the Olympic Games, but also will provide fans opportunities to have a online chat with their favorite athlete. Users can collect virtual medals and badges in this community and win actual prizes by join in online activities. As introduced by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), more than 1,000 Olympians have already joined the Hub, and this number will be grow as get closer to the opening of 2012 Olympics.

The Olympic Athletes Hub is a remediation of Olympic values. The home page uses an image of a young sports fan as a background of the header and a title that said “Follow Olympic Athletes”. This image is a remediation of participation value and highlight the London Olympic slogan, “Inspire a generation”. A searching bar takes the major position of the header that allows users to search athlete name, teams, sports, disciplines or events. This tool allows people to find their favorite athlete easily. The website also allow users to directly use a Facebook account or a Twitter account to log in. Under the searching bar, there are indicator boxes to guide users to sign up, follow official Facebook page and Twitter, and get rewards. The website also listed athletes that have most number of followers and featured athletes in below. At the right bottom corner, there is a section for online interactions. Currently, this section is promoting the “I Copy U” contest to encourage fans to engage in the Olympic Games.

5. Conclusion

After this summer, the social media use can be calculated as a result for media researchers to use. The potential and invisible effects of social media may not be obvious in the London Olympic Games. However, there is no doubt that it will be a win-win type of partnership between Olympics and social media brands. Olympic games not only use social media as a media channel to materialize its values, but also borrow the values and concepts of social media to reflect the Olympic values. Also, social media brands can use Olympics to build a positive image among public and exploit new market to a broader area. What is more, this corporation is not only a corporation between Olympics and social media brands but also count in the host city and host country’s culture. The corporation type needs to be continually discovered in the future years in both winter and summer Olympic Games.
6. Reference

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