Twitter at London 2012: A Review

It’s been a couple of weeks since the Games of the Thirtieth Olympiad finished in London 2012, two weeks of celebrating the sporting achievement and unity of the world combined. The Games were dubbed the first “social media” Olympics since social networking has really grown since the Games in Beijing. Not only that, but mobile technology has seen significant popularity with the rise of smartphones and tablets in the last four years.

Twitter has been both a news source and a source of controversy, as well as being the platform of choice for many to air their criticisms of both athletic performances and the event’s ceremonies. Let’s take a look at the role Twitter has played in the event.


This year’s Olympic Games were accompanied by a plethora of official Twitter accounts, including both the Olympics (as a continual movement) and London 2012 (as this year’s event specifically), in addition to representation of national teams and the athletes themselves

I watched a ton of live coverage from these Olympics — in part due to the availability of on-demand live streams through the BBC iPlayer availability on the iPad — but, naturally, couldn’t quite catch every moment. Fortunately, Twitter acted as the perfect platform to catch up on the events you missed with official Olympic accounts tweeting results and medal achievements as they happened.

Team GB was one national team that used Twitter to announce results and engage supporters.


Twitter certainly helped to announce record-breaking performances to the world, but it also had records set of it’s own. Sporting events regularly see headlines in tech press as users of Twitter break records they already set and the Olympics were no exception.

Usain Bolt won gold in the 200m and also a record for being the most tweeted about athlete at the games, having 80,000 tweets per minute mentioning him at the time. His win in the 100m had 74,000 tweets per minute at peak, followed by Andy Murray’s gold at 57,000 tweets per minute.

However, the closing ceremony saw a massive 116,000 tweets per minute during the Spice Girls’ performance in the Olympic Stadium. As the first “social media Olympics”, the Twitter userbase certainly respected the title of the biggest sporting event in the world.

Twitter announced a number of statistics on it’s blog.


And, of course, a network made up of people naturally didn’t see every second in a perfect light. Twitter gave a platform to any and everybody to voice their criticism at any aspect of the event, from a poor display of athleticism to dismay from viewers at NBC’s coverage of the Olympics.

Twitter themselves saw controversy too after a British journalist was banned after criticising the NBC coverage of the Games. Guy Adams, a correspondent for The Independent, saw his account suspended after he posted an NBC executive’s email address amidst criticism of the network’s coverage. The controversy stemmed from an apparent breaking of the rules which was rumoured to have been made up and then enhanced by the revelation that NBC, whom the social network had a partnership with, was informed of the tweet by Twitter themselves, who proceeded to lay out the steps needed to make a complaint.

The Social Media Games?

London 2012 added a platform for consumption of Olympic content — alongside the rise of smartphones and tablets, and the release of official apps — and for discussion, criticism and praise of the events. Twitter allowed us to both stay up-to-date and engaged with the games. The Paralympics might not top what the Olympics achieved in terms of social media, but it’s likely many people will end up staying up-to-date with events thanks to the network. Then, it’s time to look to Rio and how social media will have evolved come 2016.