Social Media and the Olympics

Social Media and the Olympics
By Eileen Bernardo

The Modern era Olympic Games began nearly 120 years ago in the summer of 1896 in Greece. Many events are still part of the Games today: gymnastics, swimming, figure skating, skiing, but how spectators ingest the events has changed dramatically through the years.A decade ago, fans across the world cheered on their country’s teams as they followed the televised events and the news.  People sat in front of their screens to hear the victory speeches of their favorite athletes.  Unless attending the games, following on television was as close and as personal as spectators could get to these Olympic events and athletes.

Today, the Olympics are ingested in a much different fashion. The advent and subsequent adoption of social media has changed the way fans and athletes watch and participate in the elusive Games.  Athletes include their Twitter handles, media personalities and channels update their social accounts in real-time, hashtags are created to follow conversations around the Olympics, etc. Fans and spectators today can get a much more in-depth and real-time view of the activities even if they are not present at the actual events.

Let’s take a closer look at how social media has affected the Olympic Games.


Fans today can follow the Olympics in real-time, even while on-the-go. They are no longer confined to their living rooms, sports bar airing the events, or news recaps if they want an update on a particular event or athlete. By following news outlets on social platforms or hashtags dedicated to the event (#Sochi2014, #olympics, etc.), fans can get a real-time update on the Olympic Games. Those who are watching the games live, either as a spectator or media member, are constantly updating their social networks with events and results as they happen, so even those on-the-go can stay updated through their mobile devices.

If you’re the type to DVR or record the events because you want to get the experience of watching in “real time”, make sure you stay off of your social networks as they are notorious for spoilers.


Fans cheer on their hometown heroes all across the globe as they watch the medal count for their respective countries.  In the past, fans resorted to fan mail or long distance adoration through the televised events and news reports. Today social media provides an outlet for fans to reach out to and “talk” to their favorite Olympic athletes.  Many athletes are active on social media and enjoy addressing their fans and giving an inside glimpse into their lives whether through sharing their thoughts, or behind the scenes snapshots and videos of the events.  This kind of interaction humanizes and humbles the athletes who are often thought of as superhuman, showing that underneath the widespread attention, they are people who worked hard for their dreams.

Accessibility on social platforms is just as beneficial for the athletes as it is for the fans. Fans get the chance to interact with their favorite athletes.  In turn, athletes who are popular among their fans and active on social media are more desirable for sponsorships for two obvious reasons: 1) likable athletes are more well received; and 2) they are influential and have tons of followers.


Traditional media outlets learned to embrace social media over the years.  The majority of news stations, outlets, anchors, and personalities have social media presences, as Twitter handles often appear with individual titles or throughout the program.  If you want real-time, official updates (by credited news and sports outlets rather than spectators) it’s a good idea to follow these outlets social accounts as these outlets and their members regularly provide updates, often in play-by-play format.  Because these social feeds are accessible at any time of the day, interested parties no longer have to sit in front of a TV to watch the events or wait for news segments to get their Olympic news.


While social media has done wonders for fans, athletes, and media, its fluidity and real-time capabilities can also cause some trouble, or bloopers as this section is called.  It’s extremely important to be cautious when posting on social channels because social media is so easily accessible and news can spread to millions within seconds.  In fact, an ill-worded or ill-timed post can have the roughest repercussions.  During the 2012 Summer Olympics, a member of the Greek team was kicked out of the Games for a racist tweet.

Social media can be used to spread positive news or stories, but it is also used to highlight negative aspects that the press in the past would be able to cover up more easily or sweep under the rug.  For example, the hashtag #sochiproblems has trended as often, if not more, than the traditional hashtags reserved for Olympics news and conversations.  This has brought a lot of negative attention to the Olympics, often the spotlight from athletes and events, and instead of focusing on problems or issues that may or may not be true or as prevalent as social media depicts.

Social media has made a huge difference in how we watch and ingest the Olympic Games.  What once was only available to those who were in the stands or through the screens of our televisions is now accessible and followed at any time through our mobile devices. The athletes that we adored from a distance are now just a tweet or post away. Social media is the go-to place for anything Olympics at any time, allowing spectators to feel closer to the events despite the physical separation.

Eileen Bernardo is the Marketing/Communication Manager for Viralheat, the social media management suite for enterprise business. She understand the power of words and enjoys taking different works of writing and turning it into information that is beneficial to the masses. You can find her cheering on her favorite sports teams or snowboarding down the slopes in Lake Tahoe. You can reach her at eileen [at] viralheat [dot] com.