Twitter scoops gold

2012-08-11 12:27

The 2012 Olympic Games will go down in history as the most social media-driven sports event to date.

With an arsenal of social media tools ranging from Twitter to new photo-sharing services like Instagram, sports-loving fans have even more alternative sources of news that sidestep television and the other traditional media.

Even the athletes themselves have become broadcasters.

While this tech-revolution brings sports fans closer to the action, in real time the still-undefined boundaries of Twitter etiquette have resulted in a few life-altering moments for some athletes.

Twitter has literally been a game changer.

At least two athletes experienced their own “Jessica Leandra dos Santos” Twitter indiscretions. Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou was the first “twit casualty”.

She was expelled from the Games after posting a racist joke on Twitter mocking African migrants.

Her offending message – referring to reports of mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus in her home country – read: “With so many Africans in Greece, at least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat home-made food!” Her apology fell on deaf ears and she was expelled from the team by the Greek Olympic Committee.

A few days later Swiss soccer player Michel Morganella was also expelled from the Olympics for tweeting a racist message about South Koreans.

Just hours after Switzerland lost to South Korea 2-1, he tweeted that South Koreans “can go burn” and referred to them as a “bunch of mongoloids”.

He was immediately stripped of his Olympic accreditation.

But it was not only athletes who overstepped the Twitter boundary. Fans also found themselves in hot water. A 17-year-old was arrested after sending malicious tweets to Olympic diver Tom Daley, accusing him of letting down his late father – who died last year of brain cancer.
Daley and his partner Pete Waterfield missed out on an Olympic medal when they finished fourth in the men’s synchronised diving.

Daley retweeted the message (“You let your dad down I hope you know that”) and ignited outrage from his followers. The cyberspat turned ugly when the fan responded with a series of angry tweets, one allegedly threatening to drown Daley, leading to the fan’s arrest.

The public’s comments on these incidents have ranged from support and agreement to people who feel the authorities overreacted.

But as the debate continues, there is no doubt that it has added an entirely new dynamic to the Games.

In previous Games the most pressing issues centred on testing the athletes for banned stimulants – what most saw as contrary to the integrity and spirit of the Games.

What Twitter has brought into question is a much broader view of what constitutes good sportsmanship.

Racist remarks previously confined to private conversations can now be broadcast to a global audience via seemingly innocuous tweets, with devastating consequences for athletes who have sacrificed so much to participate. The social media genie has been let out of the bottle and is proving to be a double-edged sword.

Perhaps the athletes will in future need to add another discipline to their training regime – thumb restraint.

» Chang is a trends analyst and founder of Flux Trends –

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