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The world’s first social Olympic Games

David Beharall
After 11 years in professional football David retired in 2006 to set up CandidSky. He currently holds the position of Managing Director.

August 18, 2012

2 minute read

The social media winners

The London 2012 Olympic Games were proclaimed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as the first social media Olympics.

Twitter estimated there were 50 million tweets about the Olympics including an impressive 80,000 per minute after Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt won the 200 metres. Facebook saw the number of fans of Olympic athletes soar. American gymnast Gabby Douglas for example had 14,358 followers on July 27 and 540,174 two weeks later.

Among sports, football gained the most mentions followed by basketball and volleyball. McDonald’s received the most mentions on social media (159,410), followed by Coca-Cola and Visa.


The IOC introduced restrictive guidelines that tried to limit what athletes posted on social media, much to some of the athletes annoyance. The introduction of the guidelines resulted in Twitter having to suspend the account of a journalist who was critical of NBC’s coverage of the Olympic Games, causing controversy.

What we have to remember is social media, particularly Twitter, allows athletes and journalists to broadcast immediately to their followers and fans. Telling a 20-year-old athlete not to use social media during the two most important weeks of their career is like telling them not to breathe. Social media is already engrained into their life.

During the opening and closing ceremonies you saw athletes holding their phones up to capture every moment ready to share it with friends, fans and followers. So the IOC ended up struggling to control what athletes posted on their social media accounts.

Social media mentions

For those of you who are wondering which top three athletes got the most mentions, not surprisingly Usain Bolt came out top with 960,000 mentions during the Games. American swimmer Michael Phelps got 830,000 mentions and British diver Tom Daley had 470,000 mentions.

The impressive figures show how social media has changed the way we watch and interact around the Games. I think the London 2012 Olympics will be remembered as the event that drove home the power of social media.

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