Twitter goes for Olympic gold

Hell breaks loose today. For a couple of weeks, 14.700 athletes are competing in 26 Olympic Sports and 20 Paralympic Sports, in front of 21.000 journalists and over 10.8 million ticket-holders. After tennis in Wimbledon, and the Tour de France, the Olympic Games are going to aggressively take over, cannibalizing most media coverage for the time to come.

Global top sport is our panem et circenses, our bread and games; London is our Coliseum. Old gladiators will falter, new young wolves will eagerly struggle for world domination, most will fail miserably.  Cheaters will be publicly lynched, superheroes will be born overnight, and humanity is hoping for some serious drama and catharsis.

The Games are heaven for the sports lover, but a nightmare for someone who is not interested. But fan or not, you will experience the 2012 London Games. Sweaty, good looking youngsters will be all over screens, radio waves and social media channels. Infographics will total the medals per country, color and gender ; 3D boosted graphs will show how humanity just got faster, stronger, better and generally enhanced.

While all media are competing for their share of the cake, it is already apparent that the big media winner of these games is going to be Twitter.  True, TV is still the old and uncontested King of Games. But Twitter moves in for Olympic gold. Tweets can be shot from the hip, while mobile: it’s lightning fast, lovely short. For weeks teams, athletes and sport influencers have been polishing up their twitter channels, and established twitter rules and protocols. London is ready for a media war, and the weapon of choice is Twitter.

The first human casualty was already sent home in a virtual bodybag: Greek triple-jumper Voula Papachristou was ejected from the Greek Olympic team for a bad racist joke. The Hellenic Olympic Committee said through AP that Papachristou was “placed outside the Olympic team for statements on Twitter contrary to the values and ideas of the Olympic movement.” Isidoros Kouvelos, head of Greece’s Olympic mission, added, “We are not here just to get medals, but to promote the Olympic ideals, to show our character.  It’s the same as violating fair play.”

Twitter is deeply entwined in the Olympic 2012 fabric, proving Twitter CEO Costolo right in his endeavors to position it more as a platform than as a service, with a special focus on events and gatherings.  Costolo positions his Twitter as the ideal social platform to make an offline event vibratingly  live online. The Twitter buzz around the Olympic Games will be one of the proof points for Twitters current valuation of over 8.5 billion dollar. The stream of tweets that will be generated during the Games puts the San Francisco based company in direct competition with all other media companies.  Twitter certainly getting a big part of the coverage will push advertisers and marketers into looking at the former micro blogging service in a very different way.  Proven reach, engagement and readership can and will be cashed in hard marketing dollars.    “We don’t have any problem, we don’t think, monetizing Twitter. Period,” Dirk Costolo said to the Wall Street Journal.

While the Twitter Golden boys dream of cash, the Olympic athletes dream of gold.  But their lives just got more complicated. Before, you had to jump far, run hard, fly high and be able to playback your national anthem with a misty smile. Now you also need to Tweet well. Coaches, journalists and decision makers are analyzing tweets, and if they do not like what they read, there will be hell to pay.

London Olympic games: if you kill the Social in Games, all you’ve left is business

With still a couple of weeks to go until the Olympic Games in London, more and more people are getting really frustrated with how the organizers are effectively killing most social components of what could have been the first Social Games.

The days where a bunch of naked men would do some heroic, manly and very muscular things for the honor of winning are long, long gone. Sky Sports estimates the true cost of organizing the event on the upside of 30 billion Euro. A smack of money for a sport event that will turn the City of Big Ben into an armed fortress, guarded by surface-to-air missiles, long distance acoustic weaponry, a Royal Navy battleship, 13.000 soldiers patrolling the city, and small armies of foreign security service personnel (the FBI alone is sending over 500 agents).

As organizer LOCOG states on its website: “Organising the Games is a huge challenge. With 26 Olympic Sports and 20 Paralympic Sports, 14,700 athletes, 21,000 media and 10.8 million ticket-holders, it is the equivalent of staging 46 World Championships simultaneously.

The organization is also hammering home a very severe fist on what it perceives as its right to protect its assets. It lobbied, and passed the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act, that offers a draconian level of protection to the Games (and –more importantly- the sponsors) that goes well beyond any existing copyright law, and that positions all offenders as downright criminals.

Not only will brand police be taping all over all logos and signs in London that might be seen by the organizers as threatening to their commercial interests, (even announcing that people can watch The Games inside a restaurant, pub or hotel will be frowned upon) but athletes and visitors will be seriously limited to what they can do or say on the social networks, if they can use these networks at all.

Twitter already announced to put a ban on use of all games related hashtags (like #games2012) that remotely even smells commercial , and the rules on what can be uploaded or tweeted during the games beggars all believe.  All so called non-authorized association is banned. Technically, someone tweeting he saw a nice Dior outfit at the London Games, is up for a lawsuit.

Longtime it was believed that these rules would apply only on the (big) brands that could try to sneak in marketing guerrilla activities on the expense of the global event without paying. But it looks that no organization or person is safe.

A satiric organization called Space Hijackers that labeled themselves as the “official protesters of the London 2012 Olympic Games“, was (temporary) suspended by Twitter on the spot on Locog’s demand. The crime? Using the Olympic Logo.

Although I do believe in protecting everyone’s commercial and intellectual rights, it saddens me to see that too often the legislation that is put into place to enforce these rights is abused to limit other rights I fervently believe in: freedom of speech, freedom of satire, freedom of disagreeing, and freedom of sharing personal pictures on a social network.

When the social component around an event that will have an impact on over a billion people for close to a month is killed, all that’s left is a sad, expensive, commercial circus.

I hope I am wrong…

(I would have loved using the Ol*mp*c Rings here, but opted for a 150 year old drawing of Olympos. Just to be on the safe side :-))

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