London 2012: Social Media Takes Its Toll on Olympics

Summer Olympics US Girls Gymnastics Win - H 2012
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Summer Olympics US Girls Gymnastics Win - H 2012

Twitter has allowed viewers, pundits and athletes to weigh in at will. The result: Overloaded networks, player expulsions and at least one arrest.

Dubbed the 'social media Olympics,' the 2012 London games are certainly living up to that title. With more Tweets during its opening ceremony (roughly 10 million) than the entire 2008 Beijing Olympics, the London event will likely be remembered as much for its social media activity as it will the games themselves. Twitter — as well as China's Twitter-like Weibo — has allowed Olympic watchers from around the globe to instantly  lodge complaints, weigh in on a host of simmering controversies or cheer their countrymen. Here's a look at the social media-driven chatter from the first four days of the London Olympics.

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IOC Blames Twitter for Broadcast Delays
Late Sunday the International Olympic Committee said that tweets from sports fans caused data problems for the BBC during a cycling event on Saturday. An IOC spokesman subsequently suggested that fans and attendees of Olympic events avoid non-urgent text messages and tweets to prevent overloading data networks, Reuters reported. He said that hundreds of thousands of fans tweeting while watching the cycling event live caused a network overload."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," Reuters quoted the spokesman as saying. "It's just, if it's not an urgent, urgent one, please kind of take it easy."

The IOC blamed broadband networks, with Reuters saying that viewers at home made things worse by sharing their anger over the lack of cycling timing information on Twitter. Smartphones and Twitter are key elements of Olympic coverage and dialog this year. U.K. public broadcaster BBC is also making many Olympic events available live on mobile phones. Paracycling world champion Colin Lynch, who will take part in the Paralympics, tweeted: "Olympic TV coverage of cycling is poor compared to pro events. No time gaps and lack of info in general."

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U.K. Journalist's Twitter Account Suspended For Criticizing NBC Coverage
On Friday Guy Adams, a correspondent with U.K. daily The Independent, took to Twitter to urge followers who might be upset over NBC's decision to broadcast the games via tape delay to send their complaints to directly to NBC Olympic President Gary Zenkel. In addition to providing Zenkel's email address, Adams wrote: "The man responsible for NBC pretending the Olympics haven't started yet is Gary Zenkel. Tell him what u think!" On Monday Adams' Twitter account was suspended, causing a firestorm of protest from the Twitter-verse, including the hashtag #SaveGuyAdams. Many complained that Adams' suspension was unwarranted and smacked of corporate overreach, especially since Twitter is an official Olympic partner with NBC. By Tuesday Adams' account had been reinstated, along with a post from Twitter's General Counsel Alex Macgillivray that acknowledged the social media giant had "messed up," adding: "We should not and cannot be in the business of proactively monitoring and flagging content, no matter who the user is — whether a business partner, celebrity or friend." Adams had the final word — or Tweet — however, when he posted this after his account was reinstated: "Twitter's full email will be on The Indy's website shortly."

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U.K. Teen Receives Warning for Twitter Harassment
A 17-year-old boy, arrested as part of an investigation into Twitter messages sent to the Team GB diver Tom Daley after he and team-mate Pete Waterfield missed out on a medal on Monday, has been issued a harassment warning. Dorset police say the teenager was bailed pending an investigation into other communications on his Twitter account. The teenager was held at a guesthouse in Weymouth, Dorset, hours after Daley retweeted messages he had been sent soon after finishing fourth in the men's synchronised platform diving event. Daley, 18, retweeted a message that said: "You let your dad down i hope you know that." Daley, whose father, Rob, died from brain cancer last year, replied: "After giving it my all … you get idiots sending me this …" Some later Twitter comments appear to have been removed from the site, but apparent attempts by the user to apologize remained. "@TomDaley1994 I'm sorry mate i just wanted you to win cause its the olympics I'm just annoyed we didn't win I'm sorry tom accept my apology." He added: "please i don't want to be hated I'm just sorry you didn't win i was rooting for you pal to do britain all proud just so upset." Later, however, another tweet to Daley read: "i'm going to find you and i'm going to drown you in the pool you cocky twat your a nobody people like you make me sick."

Swiss Soccer Player Expelled for Racist Tweet
Hours after his team lost to South Korea on Monday, Swiss soccer player Michel Morganella was expelled for a racist message on Twitter. After posting that South Koreans "can go burn" and referring to them as "mongoloids," Morganella was stripped of his Olympic Accreditation, despite issuing an apology later that said "after the disappointing result and the reaction from Korea that followed, I made a huge error." Morganella became the second Olympic athlete to be sent home thanks to a racist Tweet. Last week 23-year-old triple jumper Voula Papachristou from Greece was banned from the event when she Tweeted on July 22: "So many Africans in Greece at least West Nile mosquitoes will eat homemade food."

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Russian Official Lashes Out at Local Broadcaster
Mikhail Dvorkovich, chairman of the board of the communication group Press Hall and a brother of deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich, lashed out via Twitter against Channel One for interrupting the broadcast of the opening ceremony with commercials. "This was the best opening ceremony I have ever seen," he wrote. "But Channel One has gone completely nuts to insert commercials in it." In another post, which he addressed to his brother, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and communication minister Nikolai Nikiforov, he called on them to "punish Channel One." He also called for boycotting the station and created the hash tag "#boycottchannelone."

French Commentator Calls Twitter "Dangerous"
Not everyone is a fan of the role social media is playing during the London games.  French sports commentator Lionel Chamoulaud has criticized the Twitter craze. The journalist said on France Television that “we should be wary of Twitter” and called it “dangerous.” The public TV group responded on its official Twitter feed @Francetvsport:  “Francetvsport is on Twitter…proof that we don’t consider it to be dangerous ;)”

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Bieber Weighs In
Canadian pop phenom Justin Bieber has been busy on his Twitter account giving shout-outs to competing Canadian athletes in London. "@domiP3gg sorry I'm late 2 the party. Want to let you know as a proud canadian I'm always supporting you and proud of you. STAND UP CANADA! :)," he tweeted after Dominique Pegg competed in an Olympics gymnastics competition and earlier asked for some encouragement from Bieber. "K @justinbieber I will be competing in the Olympics in a few hours now. I think its time that you say goodluck!" the 18-year-old Canadian athlete tweeted to Bieber.