It’s unbelievable to see the degree to which social media has changed the world’s experience of the Olympics. The 2014 Sochi Winter Games have been marked by the use of social media, from the infamous @SochiProblems account, to the controversial live-posting ban that was imposed on journalists by the Russian government. While historically the world has been able to watch the Olympics from home, recent technological advances have allowed us to see the games online, and even see them on our mobile devices. Social media takes it one step further, we can interact with the games. Now you can congratulate medal winners immediately after the competition via twitter, or a news outlet might post something on Facebook, that a fan can share to their circle of friends.
Some controversy has risen however as a result of the rise in social media during the games. Obviously, much of this has to do with journalists and athletes posting about the unfinished state of the hotels in Sochi. Most of the stories surrounding the games this year have involved Putin’s stance on homosexuality and conditions in Sochi hotel rooms, not the games themselves. Part of the difficulty is that the LGBTQ community has a large online following, and the #SochiProblems Tweets are humorous and very re-postable, making the games themselves easily overshadowed. It poses the question: is the use of social media drawing or averting our attention from the Sochi Olympics? The answer is difficult to say; although there are several controversial issues surrounding much of the social media postings, they are still posts relating to the event.
Another controversy is that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has placed a ban on all visual social media posting from athletes. While athletes are allowed to post written content about the games and their experiences, they cannot post pictures or videos. Furthermore, they are allowed to record video and capture photos for their own purposes, but these cannot be posted publicly, and cannot be taken with professional equipment. Athletes also cannot post to endorse brands unless pre-approved with the IOC. These strict regulations concerning social media have many wondering to what extent the IOC is trying to control the portrayal of the Sochi Games internationally. The IOC states that posts from athletes must “conform to the Olympic spirit and fundamental principles of Olympism as contained in the Olympic Charter, be dignified and in good taste, and should not be discriminatory, offensive, hateful, defamatory or otherwise illegal and shall not contain vulgar or obscene words or images.”
Finally, a satirical story has widely circulated online concerning the failure of the fifth Olympic ring to open at the opening ceremonies. The story, published by the Daily Currant, said that the man responsible for the mistake during the opening ceremony was found dead the following morning. This story received a lot of social media buzz, however many posted and shared it under the pretense that the story was true. This highlights the degree to which Americans will believe in Russian corruption surrounding the games. Overall, the games have been bombarded with social media posts that don’t relate to the games themselves, but to much of the controversy surrounding the games, and that in and of itself has become a controversy.
7NEWS – Social media sizzles with story of man killed over Sochi Olympic rings failure – Story. (n.d.). 7NEWS. Retrieved February 12, 2014, from http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/trending/social-media-sizzles-with-story-of-man-killed-over-sochi-olympic-rings-failure
If London was Twitter Olympics, call Sochi the Viral Games. (n.d.). USA Today. Retrieved February 11, 2014, from http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/olympics/sochi/2014/02/10/sochi-russia-social-media-winter-olympic-games/5381185/