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Let the first 'social media Games' begin!

india Updated: Jul 27, 2012 08:11 IST

Hindustan Times
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It was a common sight till the turn of the millennium - an archetypal sports fan sitting at home, watching the action live on the TV, and, upon being overwhelmed by passion, hurling abuses at the screen in front of him.

He didn't really have an alternative - when the Olympics went Down Under, he probably only got to surf the net after hearing his 56kbps dial-up modem screech for minutes on end; if at all he had a mobile phone, he used it only to call and text. Social media was a term he had never heard of.

By Athens 2004, internet connections had become faster, mid-range cellphones came equipped with at least a VGA camera, and the now-derelict Orkut was a blip on the horizon.

However, even by the time the quadrennial multi-sport extravaganza made its way to China for the first time, micro-blogging was virtually unheard of, and Facebook barely had 100 million users.

Cut to the present, and technology has penetrated in more ways than was imaginable four summers ago - over half of Facebook's 900 million users log in through their smartphones, and the half a billion netizens who have something to share, instead of blogging, send out almost as many "tweets", or 140-character microblogs, a day.

The fast-paced change will have wide-reaching implications on how sporting events, including London Olympics, will be consumed by the fans, feels Olympic gold medallist Sebastian Coe, who is also the chairman of the London organising committee (LOCOG).

"The fans are a part of the action. They can comment on content, interact with the athletes, create and publish their own content," said Coe. "Never before has there been such a channel to interact with the world, especially with the youth."

Interaction is the key - apart from global sporting superstars, the Indian youth are able to connect with the country's idols. Most of India's Olympians are on Facebook; some, like the tennis brigade, are also active on Twitter.

In fact, it is not uncommon for sports news to first break on social media - usually, all it takes is an angry tweet from a miffed athlete - about the administrators, facilities or lack thereof or, in the case of Egyptian synchronized swimmer Yomna Khallaf, fake Nike kits.