By Suzanne Panoplos
In anticipation of today’s opening ceremony, news outlets have been burning up with stories about Olympic hopefuls from all over the world. These types of stories are very common in the furor leading up to the Olympics but what is different in 2012 is that the focus is not just on the athlete – it is also on the technology behind that athlete.
The fact is that over the past few years, technology has begun to play a much larger role in enhancing performance and honing an athlete’s skillset. There are cyclists who using 3D mapping technology to “ride” the courses over and over, even when they are thousands of miles away. Swimmers are strapping 8cm by 5cm wireless boxes to their backs to transmit data received from pressure mats and sensors placed around the pool. This information helps coaches assess a swimmer’s push-off from the blocks, timing during a dive or how long it takes to execute a turn. In sporting events such as sailing, various countries have started using buoys outfitted with finely-tuned GPS sensors to measure the speed and direction of the currents. Technology is helping to shave seconds off an athlete’s time, which during the Olympics is often the difference between achieving a medal and going home empty-handed.
Technology is also instrumental in the distribution of Olympic news thanks to outlet such as Twitter and Facebook. Unfortunately, the accessibility of these outlets for disseminating news and opinions has already resulted in some early controversy. Greek Olympian Volua Papachristou found herself suddenly out of the competition when she made a racist comment on Twitter from her iPhone. Her actions have even sparked new social media guidelines from the Olympic committee with the intent to minimize the impact social media could have on the games.
It could be that Papachristou’s tweet was simply the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Earlier in the week, Olympians were under fire for their indiscretions using Twitter. In fact, the London 2012 chairman, Sebastian Coe, has discouraged athletes from using twitter altogether, indicating that he has found “a close correlation between the number of tweets at competitive times and the level of under-performance."
Despite these cautions, social media is set to figure prominently at the games in the next couple of weeks. One of our own clients is leveraging their technology to measure social media usage during the event while yet another will be looking at how content is disseminated across the Internet during the events. Yet another client has invited Olympic hopeful and world recorder holder in the decathlon, Ashton Eaton, to keynote at their customer forum in the fall.
Technology and the Olympics – will it be a union made in heaven or a marriage of convenience? As the games unfold over the next few weeks, it will be interesting to see how this relationship grows and navigates potential pitfalls. And for those of you interested in catching Olympic news over social media, just head over to Twitter and start following @Olympics or @London2012.