#London2012 preview: Let the digital games begin! (video)

25 Jul 2012

Women's 100m Hurdles preparations at the Olympic Park, London, on 6 May 2012

From 3D TV to dedicated apps, interactive websites to social media, the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games promise to be one of the world’s biggest ever events in digital media. Even the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is backing online sharing of the event, which means there’s going to be a lot of content out there for us to digest.

From this Friday, 27 July, to 12 August, 205 countries will send more than 10,000 athletes to compete in 300 events across 36 sports in London 2012. With so much action taking place, the online world is spoiling us with ways to keep constantly connected to the Games – right up until the Spice Girls sing us out at the closing ceremony.

Of course, there’s the official website of London 2012, and there’s Facebook’s dedicated Olympics page, not to mention online sales of unofficial – and controversial – merchandise. And that’s not nearly the half of it.

Social media gets the go-ahead

In the spirit of being the first truly digital Olympics, spectators will be happy to know that they will be freely allowed to share video footage and images taken at events on social networks, as long as none of this content is used for commercial purposes.

This is just one of the concessions made in the IOC’s Social Media, Blogging and Internet Guidelines – the first time such a document has been drafted for the games. Athletes and other accredited persons at the event are not only permitted to share content, but the IOC is encouraging them to blog and tweet their experiences, though they will have to observe some restrictions.

All participants’ social media activity will have to respect the Olympic Charter and be in good taste, and no commercial or advertising promotions will be allowed – particularly in reference to non-sponsors.

A hub of activity

With athletes and officials encouraged to share their experiences online, the IOC has set up the Olympic Athletes’ Hub, where all this shared content will be aggregated into one website.


Compiling feeds from more than 2,000 Olympians, the site will feature content from Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Tumblr and Foursquare. Live Q&A sessions with athletes will also be scheduled on the site and users can send in their questions to the @Olympics Twitter account using the hashtag #askanathlete.

The IOC has also created a game, the Olympic Challenge, to encourage fan participation. Facebook users are asked to predict the winners of various events and compare their scores with friends. Users can also earn rewards for following athletes, unlock badges and win prizes.

BBC broadcasting everywhere … sort of

But enough about the backstage gossip; real sports fans want to see the events as they happen. As an official Olympic broadcaster, BBC has pulled out all the stops on this one, with HD, 3D and extensive online and mobile coverage.

A full 3D TV schedule is now available, which includes the opening and closing ceremonies, and 60-second shorts at the beginning of every evening’s coverage.

The BBC has also developed an app for Android and iOS (and a shortcut for BlackBerry) that takes content from the BBC Olympics website that users can download and read offline. Users can also customise the app to highlight their favourite sports and athletes, and they can stream live coverage of events.

The big problem with this app, however, is that it’s only available in the UK.

Users in Ireland can at least access the BBC Olympics website directly, and there’s plenty to satisfy sports fans there, with a page for every country, every sport and every athlete.

BBC Sport - Olympics

Medal tallies, news, key facts and statistics, photo galleries, minute-by-minute live text commentary, highlights, results and a comprehensive schedule are all available here, plus thousands of hours of live video across up to 24 streams.

The site also houses an Olympics timeline filled with great images, interesting facts and significant events, while it counts the gold medals won by each country at each event.

BBC Olympic Timeline

NBCOlympics.com – not just for Team USA

NBC will also be broadcasting every Olympic event live online for its cable and satellite subscribers on NBCOlympics.com, but the site has far more to offer for fans this side of the water, from news and blogs to information on athletes.

The most impressive feature is the Twitter Tracker, a visual display of what sports, athletes and other Olympic-related topics are trending on the microblogging network.


Clicking through to a sport gives you a real-time view of tweets and a count on average tweets per minute – the record for which was taken by this year’s Superbowl, but is expected to be beaten by the Olympics.

Users can join in the conversation directly from the Twitter Tracker, while the Tweet Sheet brings the latest musings and more from Olympic athletes and experts.

The site will also host polls where users can tweet #yes or #no answers, and ad libs where they can fill in the gaps in a sentence and tweet this to followers.

Go Team Ireland!

RTÉ Two will carry up to 14 hours of Olympics coverage every day starting from Friday, with catch-up viewing available through the RTÉ Player either online or via UPC’s On Demand service.

The Olympics section on the RTÉ website will feature news on the games, and RTÉ is currently asking fans to send messages of support for Team Ireland to the site via email, Twitter or Facebook. The best photos or videos will be included during RTÉ’s opening ceremony broadcast.


Show your support

There are plenty of other ways you can show your support for Team Ireland online. A new add-on for Firefox lets users decorate the browser in their nation’s flag, and Mozilla has even changed the browser’s homepage to mark the occasion.

Mozilla Olympics home page

Panasonic, the event’s audio-visual sponsor, has created Flag Tags, a Facebook app that applies virtual face paint to a user’s chosen photo, to make no mistake who they’re supporting.

Flag Tags

Game on

While few of us will ever be capable of going for gold in the Olympics ourselves, in the online gaming world, elite athleticism is only a click away. On the official website of the IOC, Olympic.org, users can play the official London 2012 mini game.

Unfortunately, players can only choose an athlete from a choice of 14 countries, which doesn’t include Ireland, and there’s no female option either. But despite these egregious oversights, the variety of simple sports challenges on offer through the mini game makes it perfect for whiling away the hours between events.  

Olympics image image via pcruciatti on Shutterstock

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.