Shattering Records at the Social Olympics
Rose de Fremery

We are just over halfway through the London 2012 Olympics, dubbed the Social Olympics, and some intriguing data is coming out of London as to the unprecedented volume of online activity surrounding these Games. As expected, a great many viewers have turned online to receive their event highlights and news coverage in real time. Analysts have predicted that throughout the course of the London 2012 Olympics, a staggering one billion people worldwide will stream events live, check medal results, and receive updates through digital means.

On the first day of the Olympics, ten million U.S. fans streamed events online through NBC, as compared to five million during the Beijing Games in 2008. Meanwhile, back in England, the BBC has reported a record-shattering twenty-nine million requests for online Olympic video content. “Live-streaming is a savior for die-hard fans, and social media has been ideal for those interested in results feeds and athlete personalities. On the other hand, live streaming and social media have also spoiled the surprise and suspense of the tape delay TV coverage – valuable commodities in Olympic broadcasting,” states Kenneth Wisnefski, social media expert and Founder/CEO of WebiMax.

Shortly after the Games began, fans in attendance were asked to hold back on texting and tweeting during live events because their social media activity was overloading the data networks used to transmit television broadcasts. According to a Reuters report, an International Olympic Committee spokesman voiced his plea this way: “Of course, if you want to send something, we are not going to say ‘Don’t, you can’t do it’, and we would certainly never prevent people. It’s just – if it’s not an urgent, urgent one, please kind of take it easy.”NBC reported that Michael Phelps was by far the most talked about Olympian in Week one on both Facebook and Twitter, eclipsing such stars as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Last week Phelps became the most decorated Olympian in history, closing with an incredible twenty-two medals to his name. Even President Obama sent this congratulatory tweet on Wednesday: “Congrats to Michael Phelps for breaking the all-time Olympic medal record. You’ve made your country proud.” The thrilled Olympic champion soon responded: “Thank you Mr. President!! It’s an honor representing the #USA!! The best country in the world!!”

Stay tuned. If what we’ve seen so far is any indication, the Olympics are just warming up.

Rose de Fremery is Managing Editor at The Social Media Monthly.  She writes on a range of topics related to social media including crowdfunding, social travel, sports, and startup culture.  Her article on the London 2012 Olympics appears in our July/August issue.  You can follow her on Twitter at @rosedefremery.