Social media brings us closer than ever to Olympic athletes

Social media brings us closer than ever to Olympic athletes

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Want to know what Tom Daley’s bedroom looks like? Or how Matthew Mitcham amuses himself in the Olympic Park between training sessions? Or where 5,000 can sit down to dinner? At previous Olympics we might have relied upon official photographers, and on the media to want to cover this. The reality is we would never have seen this kind of behind-the-scenes view. London 2012 is different.

For the first time we are able to see inside the Olympics from the point of view of the people it is really all about – the athletes. Want to know where they live? They’ll show you. Want to know what they eat? They’ll show you. And want to know what they do in their spare moments? They’ll show you that too. Even if sometimes people might wish they didn’t.

Over the next few weeks, we are going to see a more intimate view of the Olympics than ever before. And we are going to get to know the athletes better than ever before. Like any celebrities that start to use social media, they are going to discover they control their own brand much more than ever before. We previously knew about them from what the media chose to cover; we now know about them from what they chose to share.

A real opportunity to build themselves as brands and to capitalise upon the interest there is in them, their performances and personalities. When done well this can be hugely beneficial for them – they can help to build relationships with their fans, show themselves in the light they want to be seen and give a more rounded view of their worlds. They can also help the audience to discover things they never would have before – such as the obsession with the gorilla statue in the Olympic Park.

But with this kind of access comes challenges. That Tweet you didn’t mean to send becomes much more significant when you are representing your country at the highest level, and when the world’s eyes are on you. Good training and advice in how to use (and not misuse) social media is critical for athletes. But just as London 2012 will allow us to discover the Olympics in a way we never have before, so it will bring these mistakes and unknowns.

As we await the Opening Ceremony, the tweets, photos and status updates convey excitement and discover – for the athletes as well as for us, the audience. But what will happen when the Games begin. How will athletes talk about their competitions and victories. And how will athletes Tweet about their failures. We are discovering how social media will impact what we know about and how we engage with the Olympic Games in London 2012. And an exciting time it will be.

Photo credit: Tom Daley on Twitter