How the Internet Will Bring the Olympics to Even More People  

Internet and Global Olympics

The increase in availability of and access to the internet over the past few years, as well as improved internet broadcasting, is set to significantly increase the number of people the London 2012 Olympics will be able to reach than any previous games.

Improved Internet Broadcasting

In the past few years sports broadcasting has almost completely opened up on the internet. Now, pretty much all TV rights holders also broadcast their sporting events live via their websites, and while some broadcasters, such as sky, charge a subscription, the Olympics will in almost all countries be broadcast on free-to view websites. There have also been significant improvements in the quality of the broadcasting that has brought the internet much closer to television standards. The quality of picture over the internet is much improved, with high definition also being rolled out, while higher internet speeds and increased bandwidth have all but eliminated the broken or jolted streaming that put many people off watching live video on the internet.

All this has enabled the internet to realise its potential as a much more appropriate medium for watching live sport, particularly large tournaments and events such as the Olympics. The internet is much more suited to user choice, as it is much easier to offer users a choice of viewing options than on a standard TV. Indeed, users can even watch multiple events simultaneously. For the Olympics, this is particularly significant as many events will be taking place at the same time. Via the internet, spectators will not only be able to choose exactly which event they want to watch, something that is still rather restricted on televisions, but can also watch different sports or key contests within the same sport that are on at the same time. Added to this, broadcasters can now offer spectators the opportunity to watch any and all events ‘as live’ at any time the spectator wishes to watch it, as well as watch highlights programs at any time they choose.

This ability to free up the restrictions of viewing will significantly increase the number of people and by how much they will engage with the Olympics. With the internet now fully portable through mobile devices, people will much more be able to watch any event they wish to when it is live, compared to previous Games where if people were not able to watch it on TV, they missed the event. The ability to watch a sporting event live is critical to increasing the numbers of people who watch, as the experience of the unpredictable nature of live sport is significantly diminished if it is watched in a replay some time later once the result is known. It is has been shown that many fewer people will actually watch an event at a later date than if they were able to watch it live.

However, the ability to watch an event ‘as live’ over the internet is still significant. Firstly, where people would have missed an event they were keen on in the past altogether, will now be able to watch it when they are able to. Secondly people will not have to wait until they get home or until they can watch highlights, running the risk of finding out the result in-between, but can watch an event as soon as they have time, extending their ability to experience a ‘live’ event and as a result increasing the number of people watching the Olympics.

The social revolution that has occurred over the internet in recent years will also bring the Olympics to more people. With the Olympics being a vast event, it is very difficult for everyone to keep up with what will be happening. Social networking will increase the information about the Olympics as it develops, bring information that is relevant and interesting to specific audiences through their networks of friends and associates, which in turn increase the likelihood of someone watching an event they are interested in, and even ones they would perhaps otherwise not be. Spectating in sport is greatly enhanced when the experience is shared with others, and the internet, through its social networking capabilities, will increase the number of people watching the London Olympics.

Spreading the Olympic Experience

The Olympics, and sport in general, is more than just watching something take place. Sporting occasions of great significance can induce heightened emotional reactions in people, from the excitement of seeing the event unfold to relating to the stories of the athletes and teams that compete. Providing a greater understanding of the significance and the story behind each event is important for people to really experience the Olympics, and this is a key part of brining the Olympics to more people. A key aim of the Olympics is to bring people of all types closer together through a shared experience, and making sure people not only view more events but also feel involved with them is key to really brining the Olympics to more people. The internet has a great potential to enhance this, as people can not only get more information about the background of events, but actually feel actively involved through discussion boards, blogs, social networking, and even be linked directly to participants via sites such as twitter. This great potential of the internet to significantly enhanced people’s interaction and involvement with the Olympics from around the world will greatly enhance not only the numbers of people watching but bring the Olympic experience to many more of them.

Truly Global Games

A key aim of the London Olympics has been to provide a lasting legacy that has not been seen before as the result of previous Games. While there has been a lot of work to make sure there is a significant, long term, positive effect on the UK and its people, this aim has also been a global one, and the internet is what has made this aim a potential reality. The internet has helped in two ways. Firstly, there has been significant work to go out and take the London 2012 Olympics to more people around the world that may not otherwise have been reached, by visiting some of the poorest parts of the world and setting up many different types of community based projects, mostly sport based but not all. This has been done to increase the spread of the Olympics, increase the awareness of the London Games to these communities and help improve the lives of people in their communities through sport and in other ways. With the internet becoming much more accessible, with access more available in some areas than television and other media, the internet is able to complement and enhance this work and continue it when the people on the ground are not there.

While this work is important in itself, without these communities then being able to watch and enjoy the Olympics when it takes place the effects of this work are limited. The second effect of the internet, with its ability to bring viewing access much more easily to these communities, is to enable the preparation work to be followed through and provide a truly lasting legacy. The internet will not only help increase the spread, reach and interaction of the Olympics with more people in places and countries already aware and involved with the Olympics, but also to many communities that the Olympics has so far been unable to reach.



R. Harris

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

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