Olympics 2012: Top 10 Twitter Controversies, From Hope Solo's NBC Beef to Gabby Douglas' Hair

Hope Solo Main - H 2011
Getty Images

Hope Solo Main - H 2011

Two players were banned from the 2012 Summer Games for offensive tweets, and a U.K. teenager was arrested for making threats after a diver finished fourth.

Watching Twitter watch the Olympics has become a spectator sport in its own right. From multiple athletes losing their spots over racist tweets to a U.K. teenager’s arrest for making threats over Twitter, there's been nearly as much drama online as in the Games proper.

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In no particular order, here are 10 of the most remarkable Twitter controversies surrounding the 2012 Summer Games.

1. Gabby Douglas' Hair

Sixteen-year-old Gabby Douglas helped bring home the first gold for Team USA’s women’s gymnastic team since 1996. But it was her hair -- not her talent -- that some Twitter commentators took note of. Her gelled ponytail, it seemed, wasn't neat-looking enough for them. 

But fans eventually spoke up to defend Douglas and to praise her accomplishments.

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2. Lolo Jones (Possibly) Makes Colorado Shooting Joke

Lolo Jones got some flack for this Tweet, which the Twitterverse took as a reference to last month's tragic shooting in Aurora, Colo.:

Pounced upon by critics, she quickly apologized, saying "sorry u guys only think of violence but I think of all the hunting I do w southerners in da south. Its impressive."

Jones also received her fair share of defenders, who said the tweet was simply her praising the skill of the U.S. Olympic skeet shooters. (U.S. men and women would eventually both take gold.)

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3. Voula Papachristou Kicked Off Team for Racist Tweet

The 23-year-old Greek triple-jumper didn’t even make it to the Games. After the emergence of West Nile Virus-carrying mosquitos in Greece, she tweeted, “With so many Africans in Greece, the West Nile mosquitos will be gettin' some home cookin'!"

She was booted from the team, and in her most recent, apologized to her family and coach. “My dream is connected to the Olympic Games and I could not possibly participate if I did not respect their values,” she wrote. “Therefore, I could never believe in discrimination between human beings and races."

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4. British Journalist Guy Adams Suspended From Twitter

Twitter banished Guy Adams, an L.A.-based editor for The Independent, after a barrage of tweets in which he was critical of NBC’s coverage of the Games. The straw that broke the camel’s back came when Adams tweeted the email address of NBC executive Gary Zenkel, and encouraged people to contact him. Adams’ account was later reinstated, after much public outcry.


5. Swiss Soccer Player Michel Morganella Calls South Koreans “Bunch of Mongoloids"

Voula Papachristou, 23, became the second athlete to be removed from an Olympic team after a tweet. The multi-lingual player was upset after a loss to the South Korean team, and tweeted South Koreans "can go burn" and called them a "bunch of mongoloids." While widely condemned, some debated whether it was a racist tweet, or simply rude.

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6. Hope Solo Slams NBC Commentator

Olympic soccer goalie Hope Solo made a stir for slamming what she considered subpar Olympic coverage from former soccer player Brandi Chastain.

This being Twitter, it didn't take long to pick Solo's assertion apart.

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7. NBC Exec Jumps Into the Fray

NBC has been much-criticized over its decision to run the Games on a tape delay, and TV critic James Poniewozik expressed his annoyance this way:

NBC executive James Bell responded to ask if Poniewozik knew the events were also live-streamed.

For his part, Poniewozik later tweeted that though he disagreed with NBC's tape-delay, he respected Bell for engaging viewers and critics.

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8. Mass Tweeting Disrupts Men’s Road Bicycle Race

At July 28’s men’s road bicycle race, all of the tweeters lining the streets actually disrupted the bandwidth officials needed to report times to TV viewers. Olympic officials were later forced to beg bystanders not to tweet or send text messages unless they were urgent.

"It's just, if it's not an urgent, urgent one, please kind of take it easy,” an official said." We don't want people to stop engaging in social media, but we are asking to see if people can send by other means."


9. U.K. Teenager Arrested for Threatening Tweets

British Olympic diver Tom Daley fell victim to increasingly threatening tweets from a British teenager, who was angry the athlete had placed fourth in synchronized diving.

The tweet proved particularly tasteless, as Daley’s father had actually died of brain cancer a year earlier. The diver wanted to win a medal to honor his father’s memory. The teenager apologized, but then got more aggressive as others (including Olympians) came to Daley’s defense:

Police arrested the teenager July 28, and he re-emerged on Twitter Tuesday, declaring “I’m f---in’ back.”


10. #NBCfail

It didn’t take long for the hashtag #nbcfail to catch on, as fans and critics took to Twitter to express their displeasure over tape-delays, spoilers and nearly anything else related to the network’s coverage. What’s more, parody accounts such as @NBCDelayed have popped up, tweeting comically delayed breaking news such as: