Hell breaks loose today. For a couple of weeks, 14,700 athletes will be competing in 26 Olympic Sports and 20 Paralympic Sports, in front of 21,000 journalists and more than 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 the Games. But Twitter moves in for Olympic gold. Tweets can be shot from the hip; through mobile t’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 Twitter’s current valuation of more than $8.5 billion. 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 getting a big part of the coverage will push advertisers and marketers to look at the former microblogging 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 play back 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.