As we continue to revel in the success of athletes such as Mo Farah, Victoria Pendleton and Andy Murray who all enjoyed golden glory at London 2012, it’s worth looking at some of the facts and figures around the BBC’s excellent coverage. Long before its impressive opening ceremony, these Olympics were being labelled ‘The Social Media Games’, but with most of us using smartphones and tablets to experience the action, increased wireless frequencies and big screens set up around the capital, perhaps ‘The Multi-Platform Games’ is a more accurate moniker.

Cait O’Riordan, Head of Product for BBC Sport, reports on the BBC Blog that it’s seen an astonishing 106 million requests for video content across all online platforms over the 17 days of the Games. Well exceeding the 32 million experienced during the 2008 Beijing Games. With 24 additional channels available through the Red Button, a total of 23.8 million people have watched at least 15 minutes of games action; the most popular event being Mark Cavendish in the Cycling Road Race with 1.3 million viewers. The most requested live stream action was the Tennis Singles Finals with 820,000, which saw Andy Murray finally take victory over Roger Federer on Wimbledon turf and Serena Williams win her first individual gold. Even the BBC Olympic App has proved popular with almost 2 million downloads across iOS, Android & Blackberry. The BBC iPlayer also managed to garner a record of its own. The Opening Ceremony was watched 1.7million times with a record-breaking 925,000 on the Saturday after – the most views ever in a single day. 

As Olympic events were broadcast across BBC’s 1, 2 & 3 almost round-the-clock, the reach was impressive with 51.9 million viewers watching across all 3 channels and Red Button streams. Viewing peaked on Saturday 4th August with the biggest ratings of the Games, as almost 20 million watched Usain Bolt’s victory in the 100m final on BBC1. Admiration for the Beeb’s coverage has been almost universal from viewers and media alike; barring the odd blip, such as the technical fiasco that blighted the Cycling Road Race. The New York Times praised its “futuristic and contemporary” capture of the games, compared to NBC’s “retro feel”. International viewers, who  managed to gain access to the BBC’s coverage online by utilising a proxy server, have also been vocal in their praise. At the same time many in the US were frustrated at NBC’s decision to hold off transmitting events live, instead delaying for several hours until peak time in the States and missing key sporting moments such as the Men’s 100m final.

Social media is made for the Olympics. A global event with a cast of thousands; dazzling displays of skill, endurance and human emotion all played out live. A truly unifying experience allowing us to take to Twitter & Facebook to share and express our own thoughts. With Twitter still relatively new at the start of the last Olympics in Beijing, these were the first Games to fully utilise the immediacy of communication through social media. The relative lack of restriction gives ordinary users the freedom to utilise social networking platforms in in their own unique ways. Adam Naismith, a web developer unable to get hold of tickets himself, decided to set up a Twitter page sending alerts when seats became available at events. An enterprising act that reinforces the power social media has to ‘make things happen’.

Living in a world where both information and communication is instantaneous, it’s difficult to remember a time when we couldn’t access whatever we wanted at the press of a button. The Olympic Games has been an exciting and unifying experience but it has also been a reminder of how far technology has progressed in a short space of time. Being able to relive medal-winning performances and having the opportunity to experience any missed events on-demand has contributed to making London2012 a unique and special experience.


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