Is the social media Olympic/Paralympic legacy the most important?
London 2012 – a monumental success for athletics, culture and society. If the challenge before was to ensure that Britain didn’t embarrass itself, then after it’s to try to keep the positivity going. Can social media pick up the baton and play a major role in the continuation of the story?
I don’t know if it’s something exclusive to British people but we fear the worst when we’re on the world stage. We’re good with cynicism because it guarantees that we’re either right or we end up pleasantly surprised. In the case of London 2012, the Olympics and the Paralympics, Britain delivered and exceeded even the most optimistic of expectations.
Having created enthusiasm, buzz and captured a wide-reaching audience, the post-games question is what to do next. The word thrown around has been ‘legacy’ but what does that even mean? More to the point, there are so many different types of legacy that it seems hard to know which needs most attention to be fulfilled. East London will directly benefit from the new sporting infrastructure and reurbanisation whilst London as a whole seems to be enjoying a social renaissance, as noted by Seb Coe.
Seb Coe clearly doesn't understand tube etiquette. No talking Seb, people will just think your weird.
— Dan Beasley (@danbeasley1) 9 Sep 12
If I've understood the idea of a legacy correctly, then it's about long-term change for the better. More people playing sport for fun resulting in more reaching an elite level. As we've seen, sports have a positive impact when it comes to closing social and cultural divides - in the short-term that should continue as the games and the individuals who competed inspire the public. But, that will fizzle out.
The real power lies with the media. Coverage of sports is both compelling and persuasive - the written, the visual and the audible. One can argue that part of the attraction of the games is the mystery surrounding the unknown - both the sports and the competitors. It leaves stories to be told and enables stars to emerge out of just two weeks of competition. This isn't necessarily conducive to getting more people into more sports though. It's good that a London Legacy TV channel is to be launched but it'll be on a paid-for service and hasn't had much publicity. Fringe sports need more mainstream coverage to keep them fresh in people's minds.
This is where social media can play its part. It's probably misguided to think that football, rugby and cricket can be dislodged from the back pages but there are plenty of people who get their fix of news elsewhere today. Twitter has helped give a voice to those with a passion in niche areas - sports journalists have been retweeting and mixing with experts from the non-mainstream sports. Followings have organically increased and already there has been a noticeable increase in online coverage of sports such as cycling.
People and their sports gain traction and popularity very quickly on social media sites - whether that's lead by paid media experts or not. Campaigns for things like women in sport have received a lot of positive attention and there have been stories unraveling online - notably from those who attended events or volunteered. It's now down to Twitter and social media to undermine the press and fill the gaps that they can't or won't cover.
Dubbed the first Socialympics, it's only just becoming clear how big the role of social media could be. The post-events buzz and conversations strike me as being more important that those beforehand. Athletes with verified accounts and thousands of followers now have a large online audience who'll be keenly tracking their progress up to and beyond Rio in 2016.
Doron Salomon is a Blogger Engagement Executive at Jam. He blogs about football for the Huffington Post.