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SBJ/August 13-19, 2012/Olympics
Published August 13, 2012, Page 34
The Social Games
NBC credited tweets from the opening ceremony with helping drive its record-setting initial broadcast from London. Team USA saw engagement on its Facebook page soar and collected more than 220,000 “likes” for a highlight reel of gymnast Gabby Douglas. And gold-medal-winning athletes added thousands of followers in the moments after they won.
There were negative stories, as well. Two athletes were expelled from the Games for alleged racist tweets, NBC faced backlash on Twitter when people registered tape-delay complaints using #NBCfail, and British diver Tom Daley had to deal with a cyber-bully exchange with a tweeter after failing to win a medal.
From Blight To Bliss
When London won the Games seven years ago, Stratford was a wasteland marked by buildings with broken windows and streets dotted with discarded appliances.
The Olympics gave the city a chance to clean up that area of town and showed Londoners who had always avoided it that getting there wasn’t as difficult as they had always imagined.
The Athletes Village will be converted into affordable housing, and by the end of the decade, London officials hope to have 12,000 more people living in the area.
“Stratford was a wasteland,” said Gary Pluchino, IMG’s senior vice president and head of global Olympic consulting. “To see the river there without shopping carts and tires in it is amazing.”
This was London 2012’s black eye.
The ballot system it developed for tickets crashed the first time tickets were put on sale, discouraging many Britons from applying for tickets again. Many of those who did come back were able to select seats for an event on the ticket website but then were told they weren’t available when they went to pay for them.
Ticketing — and, by extension, venues with empty seats — has been a recurring problem for Olympic organizers, and London was no different.
“The systems for the Olympic Games in general are improving from Games to Games, but there are problems always,” said Sead Dizdarevic, who heads Jet Set Sports, an Olympic ticket and hospitality agency. “As long as they have this type of system, problems will continue.”
A Dose Of Humor
Mr. Bean set the tone for one of the most humorous Games on record with his appearance in the opening ceremony. The more than 60,000 volunteers extended the laughs by mixing wry and satirical jokes into their efforts to direct traffic at Olympic Park.
USA Swimming chief marketer Matt Farrell was walking up to the London Aquatics Centre one night when someone announced on the loudspeaker that in an effort to do a better job recycling, the water from the pool was also being used to flush the toilets.
“I paused and then went, ‘Nah,’” Farrell said, adding: “Everyone puts on the smiles and tries to be friendly at the Olympics, but they really had a sense of humor.”
No White Elephants
London organizers came into the Games committed to leaving no “white elephants” behind. Of its eight permanent venues, it had legacy plans for six. For example, the Copper Box, which hosted handball, was designed to become a community center after the Games.
And despite organizers’ and city officials’ struggles to find a permanent tenant for the Olympic Stadium, London set a new standard for developing facilities that have a life after the Olympics.
Lack Of Ambush
There was almost no noise about ambush marketing at these Olympics, which was refreshing to sponsors and marketing agencies.
In the U.S., the U.S. Olympic Committee spent the last two years holding a series of workshops on ambush marketing and reaching out to officials in Washington for support if an incident arose.
In the U.K., the British government passed tough laws preventing use of the five-ring logo and the words “Olympics” or “London Games.” Their efforts to make sure that shops didn’t illegally infringe on those rights, though, did result in a public backlash and concern that they became overzealous in protecting sponsors.
“The intent was to spot the major brands like Pepsi and Nike, not the local florist or the baker or the butcher who wants to celebrate the Games,” said Michael Payne, an independent consultant and the former director of the International Olympic Committee’s marketing program. “LOCOG scored a complete own goal there.”
People from Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia and the U.S., among other countries, could be seen across the Park and outside every venue, from Earls Court to Wimbledon. They gave the Olympics an international flavor that surpassed most previous Games, thanks largely to the easy access to London from so many countries.
“It’s so easy for people throughout Europe to get here,” said Darryl Seibel, head of communications at the British Olympic Association. “There’s a real blend of nations that you don’t get in every Olympic city.”