How Internet Technology is Benefitting the Olympics  

Olympics and the Internet

In the last 15 years or so the development of the internet has had a profound impact on the lives of people across the world, and the Olympics has also seen many benefits from this development. However, it is London 2012 that we see the full effects of the internet on the Olympics take hold. Although the internet was well established at the Sydney Games in 2000 and Athens 2004, the internet has developed a long way since then, and with the media restrictions and controls implemented at Beijing in 2008, the full potential of the internet was arguably not achieved.

However, ever since London was chosen to host the Olympics in 2005 the internet has been a key component in many aspects of the games, for organisers, participants and spectators.

The Olympics is the biggest sporting or cultural event in the world, and also reaches more people than any other. It is also a key aim of the Olympic movement, ever since its inception in the modern era in the 19th century, to reach as many people around the world as possible and bring cultures together. It therefore makes sense that the internet should be a highly effective tool in enhancing this objective, as these are exactly the areas in which the internet has changes society across the world.

The internet initially was a great freer of information, providing resources to anyone on a whole range of subjects. While this has continued to expand at a great rate, the second development of the internet has been in the massive increase in social ability. People around the world are now much closer together, able to talk and interact on a direct, daily and personal basis unseen before in history and this is set only to develop further. With this vast potential to reach people from all walks of life and for shared experiences, the internet is ideal to help meet the core aims of the Olympic movement.

Advertising and Marketing

Marketing of the Olympics has become a key and integral part of producing a successful Games. This it can be split into two areas; developing awareness and information on the games, and also as a tool for increasing revenues, although these areas are not completely separate.

London 2012 LogoThe promotion of the London Olympics has from the start been distinct in its understanding of the internet and digital media and how to effectively utilise it. Although the London2012 Logo received much criticism when it was launched, and it can be argued it is not the best logo from an artistic point of view, it was clearly design to be fully suited to its use across the internet. Static, inflexible logos are no longer the restriction and indeed are becoming out of date. The ability for a logo to be dynamic, for it to change and be adapted across different platforms and to different audiences, while still maintaining a clear and distinct identity, is crucial.

The reason why marketing has developed in that way on the internet is because it offers great benefit. The more flexible a logo or brand is, the more it can be manipulated to be relevant to different audiences and increase its reach. With internet technology now developing to enable much more dynamic imaging, the Olympics is able to use this technology to make its branding much more relevant to a greater number of people.

London 2012 MascotsThe development of the London 2012 mascots has also shown this understanding further. The internet has produced a large increase in the popularity and association with animations, particularly with characters. By creating two animation characters that are clearly associated with the Olympics, London 2012 has been able to integrate another dynamic of digital media to increase its relevance to more people, particularly in the case of children and young people. Increasing interest in sport and the Olympics amongst children, particularly of an early age, is a key element of the Olympic objective, as it is has been shown that if children get into sport at an early age they stay more active through life, while it is also an aim to try and instil the values of the Olympic movement into young people to help break intolerance. The internet and its new interactive media have the potential to greatly enhance its ability to do this.

A key aspect of the mascots is their neutrality. The Olympics is meant for all mankind, and therefore the mascots must be able to relate to people of all cultures. Using mascots in the traditional way it is difficult to achieve this, however by using animation and creating two characters (one male and one female) that are not of any specific nationality or race, they can be implemented in the advertising and promotion of the Games across all cultures and create a direct link to London 2012. Without the internet, this new form of global promotion would simply not be possible.

With the internet providing a greater audience to the Olympics, the opportunity for increasing revenues for the games is also greatly enhanced. While profits are not a driving objective of an Olympic Games, indeed many argue that putting on a games costs a host more than they get in, it is an expensive event and maximising revenues is vital. The internet helps play a big part in that, both in isolation and as part of overall income generation.

A large amount of income to the games comes from marketing and broadcasting. With billions of people around the world watching and following the games before, during and after, the potential reach to customers for businesses is huge and a premium can be charged to associate a company with the Olympics. Now, an official sponsor of the Olympics will have their association spread right across the internet and around the world, producing a unique advertising potential while also greatly enhancing the overall promotion of the company as it enhances its presence and association with the Olympics.

The Olympics is also a key event for broadcasters for the same reasons. The huge audiences are vital to tap into for broadcasters, as they in turn charge more for advertising on their networks. A successful broadcasting of the Olympics also greatly enhances the reputation of any network. Being a premier broadcasting event, the Olympics can again recoup a large amount of money by selling the broadcasting rights. The spread of the internet, which is now a broadcasting medium in its own right, has greatly enhanced the broadcasting potential of the Olympics and as a result increased the potential revenue from it.

Bringing the Games Closer

To increase the impact and influence of the Olympics, it has been important to make audiences more involved in the Games around the world. The Olympics has a unique ability to relate to people from all nations as almost every country is represented. The internet has enabled London 2012 to harness this initial potential interest and enhance it, making people feel more involved and part of the games.

The internet helps to make the Olympics more relevant to people in several ways. It has enabled people to feel much closer to athletes from their country and build a greater association with them. With the ability to watch any event live over the internet whenever they want, people are no longer bound by the discretion of TV broadcasters as to what events are shown, so that now any country can watch their athletes compete in any event. There are also many more interviews, articles and information about athletes that can be watched and read any time on the net, providing a much more personal link between them and their followers. The development of social networks, particularly the recent rise of Twitter, has enabled audiences to not only follow their athletes in more detail in the build up to the Games, but also get an insight into their life while they are actually at the Games and in real time. By creating this increased personal association that would not be possible otherwise, the internet helps to make the Olympics a much more emotional experienced and therefore more relevant to audiences.

The internet has also been an excellent medium for improving the knowledge base of the Olympic audience. People can find information whenever they want about any aspect of the Games, from knowledge about individual events and their rules, technical aspects and tactics, to information on what goes on around the games, such as other cultural events and what makes the Games happen. The more people know about a subject, the more relevant it is to them and the internet has proved to be a key tool to increase this amongst people all over the world.

Social networking has also added a further aspect to the relevance and interaction of the Games to audiences. People are now able to share the experiences of the Games with others in a way far beyond that of any previous games. Experiences are always greatly enhanced when they are shared, and now all aspects of the Olympics can be shared amongst more people from around the world. Whether it is discussions or arguments about athletes and events, debates about the impact of the Games, or watching an event with friends and family that are not together, the internet has made the Olympics a far more socially inclusive event, making it more relevant and closer to people of all nations.

Increasing Participation

One of the key aims of the Olympic movement has been to increase participation. While it is a celebration of what mankind can do, it is also to encourage people to take part and to push those achievements to new levels.

Initially, the Olympics involved many areas of cultural life beyond sport, such as poetry, and while this was lost to a dominant focus on physical and sporting ability, more recent Games have begun to expand the cultural experience into other areas, with London 2012 taking this to new levels, its aim being to be a truly ‘Cultural Games’.

The reason for this is to increase the relationship and relevance of Olympics to more people. For a long time it has been felt that those not interested in sport should not be excluded from the Games, and while the Olympics aims to increase sporting participation, it should not be exclusive in this aim.

The internet has a large amount of potential to enhance participation in both sports and other cultural activities. Increasing knowledge and understanding leads to increasing someone’s participation in that area, and the internet’s ability to inform and educate more people about more sports and get more people interested has helped to increase the number of people actively participating in them, either competitively or for recreation. The social aspect of the internet also helps with this, as sharing experiences not only helps to get more people started in a sport but also helps to maintain their participation.

While this aim of the Olympics to increase sporting participation is partly to improve people’s physical health, it is also to improve people on a wider cultural and social basis, both individually and collective as a community, nation and species. For the Olympic movement to be successful in this wider cultural aim, it has to engage with other aspects of human culture, and the internet is a key tool in achieving this. Not only does the internet help increase wider cultural development in the same ways as it helps develop sporting participation, the internet is a medium where a lot of them can actually be carried out. Whereas it is difficult to conduct a sport via the internet, other areas of culture are ideally suited to participation across the web, such as art, music, poetry, writing and many more. With London 2012 organising more non-sporting cultural events before, during and after the Games than any other Olympics to date, the internet is a key tool in maximising the potential of these cultural events to not only increase the reach of the Olympics to more people, but also to enhance the cultural participation and enjoyment of audiences the Olympics influences.




R. Harris

Bsc Physical Education, Sports Science and Physics, Loughborough University Founder

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