The Olympics: Digital Gold close

Rachel Wilde
Rachel Wilde
In Musings, Online Innovation
15th August 2012
The Olympics: Digital Gold

The Olympics has proven many things to the world: that the Brits could actually organise a piss up in a brewery, that every athlete should have a trademark celebration pose and that Boris Johnson can in fact dance! But most importantly to us it’s proven that digital years are a bit like dog years. 

If we imagine that one human year equals about seven digital years then that makes the Beijing Olympics 28 years ago. And that sounds about right. During the last two weeks we witnessed the result of a massive leap that the digital world has taken to enable us to enjoy events online, get closer to all the action and become truly immersed - whether at work, home or elsewhere - in ways that were not possible four years ago. But there were also some lows and surprises along the way.

Here’s a roundup of all the action…

The Social Games:

  • At the time of the Beijing 2008 Facebook had 100 million users. By London 2012 it had 900 million
  • In the past four years Twitter has grown from 6 million users, sending 300,000 tweets per day to 500 million users, sending 400 million tweets per day
  • During the games there were more than 150 million Olympic themed tweets, the biggest peak being after Bolts 200m win with more than 80,000 tweets per minute
  • Athletes were rewarded for behind the scenes insights with massive growths in the number of twitter followers
  • Tom Daley went from 300,000 followers before the games to over 1.5m, but he also was also the target of trolls highlighting the issue and negative side to the social games

The Great British Broadcasting Corporation:

  • Ran 24 simultaneous live streams (which stats show users quickly became accustomed to), covering every sport in every venue on their site, mobile app and Facebook app allowing you to rewind, pause and fast forward the action 
  • Offered a page full of facts and figures on every sport, country, athlete and venue so that you could find out more about the athlete/event or country you were watching with one click
  • Received 102 million requests for live streams, catch-up coverage and clips online throughout the Games
  • Smashed online records, attracting a bigger audience in one day than the entire 2010 World Cup (…well that was 14 digital years ago)
  • Had 1.5 million downloads of their smartphone App

As a result of the extensive coverage available on Computer, Mobile, Tablet and Connected TV the BBC were able to gain some great insight into user behaviour on their site across the different devices:

  • 56% of users were on Computer, 33% on Mobile, 8% on Tablet and 3% on Connected TV
  • PC usage peaked during the week at lunchtime and at mid-afternoon to get an update on how Team GB were getting on
  • Mobile took over around 6pm as people leave the office but still want to keep up to date with the latest action
  • As computer usage dramatically dipped, television viewing figures gradually peaked, rising from 4pm until 8pm as families arrived home and settled down to watch the competition
  • Tablet usage reaches a peak at around 9pm: people using them for a second screen experience as they watch the Games on TV, and also as they continue to watch in bed

So while here, at the home of the games, we were enjoying first class coverage the same couldn't be said elsewhere. Viewers in Australia and the US in particular took to Social Networks to share their frustration with the poor coverage offered by their home broadcasters. With no online options anywhere near as advanced as the BBC’s and access restricted based on IP address, international audiences resorted to trying to gain illicit access to the BBC site.

What else?

  • There was a fair amount of hype around Getty who had promised a giant 20-gigapixel image of the opening ceremony image, which never transpired due to “unforeseen technical difficulties