This year’s Olympics are being branded by organizers as the world’s “first social Games,” and it’s not hard to see why. Social media has narrowed the divide between athlete and fan over the past few years, with new and unexpected connections happening every day.
That’s why the International Olympic Committee (IOC) launched an online hub this week.
Sixteen years after the Olympics first launched a dedicated website, the portal will offer a directory of verified accounts, gamification rewards for active fans and exclusive content.
It may not seem like a huge step for the organization, but consider these stats. When the last Summer Olympics began in 2008, Facebook was a relative baby, at just 100 million users. When the 2012 Games kick off in London this summer, Mark Zuckerberg’s empire will boast more than 845 million members.
Likewise, Twitter had 6 million users in 2008; today the network is more than 20 times larger, at 140 million users.
Of course, it’s not all positive news — the Olympic organization has also seen branding-related troubles that have been denounced by some observers. Still, that controversy will only increase the level of social media chatter around the games.
Check out this IOC-produced infographic illustrates how social media has contributed to the changes in the Summer Olympics experience for fans and athletes. Check it out to see how coverage has evolved since the first modern Games in 1896, and find out the most popular athletes on Facebook and Twitter.
What role will social media play in your Olympics experience this summer? Let us know in the comments.