Olympians and social media


Why these ones are much more fun – for me

Well hasn’t it been exciting boys and girls! Actually, if you were watching the archery it was tremendously so. Each country with three archers firing away in groups of three against another country. It was like a penalty shoot-out – only more lethal. Robin Hood would have had his work cut out against this lot. I tried my hand at archery a few years ago, but ended up shredding my elbow with the bow because of my instinct to ‘lock’ my arm with my elbow facing the ground rather than holding it firm facing sideways. But there was something cool about having a bow and arrow…less so trying to aim at a balloon sitting at the centre of the target. It’s like when I tried clay pigeon shooting at a family stag do…you can see why men in particular take a fancy to such things. It’s an extension of our…well…let’s not go there.

There’s also something nice finding out about someone who you’ve not heard of before – especially if they are from your locality and are representing your country. Perhaps after so many negative headlines not just around the Olympics but in general, it’s nice to have coverage of people potentially from your neighbourhood taking on the best in the world as they head to London.

Let’s not forget the volunteers too – Mark Easton‘s account made me smile – voluntarism triumphing over the corporations, which were just made to look ridiculous and petty. I was umming and aahing over whether to step forward as a volunteer because I’d done similar things at local events in Cambridge such as the Strawberry Fair and the Oxfam Walks. But such was the distaste left by the demands of the corporate sponsors that I decided not to bother. I doubt I’m the only one who refrained from stepping forward for similar reasons.

What a contrast from top flight football

…which has been dragged through the mud and will continue so following recent court cases. That’s not saying all Olympians are angels. Perhaps I’m not comparing like-with-like. Personally I prefer the sports that have some sort of a team element to them – i.e. where you either play as a team or compete individually but your scores count as part of a wider team score. I guess it’s another way of the competitors saying ‘this is not all about me’ because they are part of a wider team and part of a wider squad. It would be interesting to hear from the men’s Great Britain football team what difference (if any) has been made as a result of being in TeamGB. Have they made new friends across other sports? I hope so. For the younger Welsh players, I hope for them the experience of international tournament football has a knock-on effect with the Welsh national side. I’m sad for Scotland whose football association decided not to take part. Just as with the Welsh players, I think some of their better young players would have benefited from a big international tournament experience. That said, the mess that is the Rangers fiasco has shown the Scottish FA to be not the best run organisation in the world.

Some epic clashes

Great Britain vs Argentina in the hockey, USA vs North Korea in Women’s football, Japan vs China in the mens gymnastics and womens archery. Maybe that’s how they should resolve international conflicts. Sod war and diplomacy: We’ll sort out the ongoing Falklands dispute over a series of matches involving football, hockey and polo! The mens gymnastics was also nailbiting too. What were your top events (& why?)

But there are always some idiots.

I would say “village idiots” but there aren’t enough villages to go around. Social media has a habit of pointing such people out – whether it’s those posting racist posts to those sending threats. The former was the case when Japan understandably appealed a decision that otherwise would have bumped Great Britain up to silver. The appeal was upheld and Twitter went into meltdown with anti-Japanese tweets even though the decision was made by the judges on both occasions. The latter involved Tom Daley. I’m not going to go further other than to note the law is now taking much more notice of who is saying what on social media – and at present the application of it feels inconsistent. A steer needs to come from the authorities concerned, then cascaded to all and sundry so that people – young people in particular – learn the difference between what is acceptable (& in what context), what is unacceptable (& in what context), what is unlawful (e.g. could get you sued) and what is illegal (e.g. could land you with a criminal record and/or in jail).  There are some calls for phone companies to do this, but I think it goes far beyond the phone companies. It’s got to be incorporated into schools and the workplace too. But where to start. Is Debretts a starting point or too ‘old fashioned’?

Sports stars on social media

This has also been a bit of a game changer. Throughout the 1990s, the public personas of sports stars became increasingly micromanaged – in the same way that it did for politicians. Sports stars employed agents while politicians employed spin doctors. Even if you had the political equivalent of a turd, a sound spin doctor could still spin that into a pot suitable for a safe seat for lobby-fodder purposes. Through social media, we get to see what these people are really like – warts and all. This allows people to make judgements not on what they see on the field and in the papers, but on both style and content of what people tweet. It’s a great equaliser.

It also makes it a damn sight harder for ‘brand managers’ (because top players are brands in their own right these days) to manage their charges. It’s much easier to see when something is put out by a brand manager versus something tweeted by an individual player – especially if the latter is not the brightest (academically) pea in the pod. After all, what’s the point of phoning up a press officer to get the line: “The lady who was led to believe that she had exclusive copulation rights with my client is admittedly currently apoplectic with rage regarding recent allegations that have been made in the media and on the internet” when you can look at the Twitter account of the player concerned and find: “Yeah, toots woz well lairy about Blowjob Beckie – the lads always gettin’ me in2 trubble!!”

I’m yet to see one of football’s intellectuals take to Twitter – are there any left these days? Maybe it’s because Socrates was one of the best players I never saw, but I wonder what he’d have been like on Twitter.

Competitors and social media guidance

The London 2012 organisers have already issued social media guidance for competitors though this is just as much about ‘protecting’ sponsors rights (because a tweet containing a competitor brand might destroy them commercially -> sensitive multinationals y’see).  Only last week new social media rules were issued for the English Premier League. I’m not entirely sure what’s in the guidance as I only have the press release to go on.

The good thing is that it allows supporters to interact directly with competitors and send messages of support. When you’re not in the public eye – as many until now have not been, I can imagine the tidalwave of support can be an incredible boost. The question is what to do about the trolls short of having a full-time human filter for your social media account to filter those ones out for you. (How many can afford that?)

Volunteers and social media guidance

…makes a nonsense of these being the social media games. This was first picked up in January and ridiculed by many in the social media world – and that was before the attempts to police the internet for everyone else was picked up. It speaks volumes that the first thing volunteers are asked to do beyond the preamble is to protect the brand. Not “Thank you very much for volunteering – priority number 1 is that everyone HAS FUN.” No, protecting the brand is more important. I thought they were called the Olympic GAMES for a reason. In the longer term I hope this does not set a trend for future events – and that organisers learn from the error of their ways.

The corporate media and social media

Not just the organisers, the media broadcasters too. Delayed streaming as per the rights holder in one large country meant they could not share in the experiences the rest of the world were engaging in online. They got lots of adverts though. As for ill-informed commentators, the BBC has form on that too. It’s not just a US problem. If people cannot switch over to another channel to watch their coverage, then poor coverage from the rights holder for an event lots want to watch will inevitably get shredded. And rightly so. The corporate media is still to find the right method of how to interact with social media users – especially with complaints & firestorms.



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