With the Olympics due to start in just over a week, the International Olympic Committee has finally taken the wraps off a new social media hub, apart from its main website, for athletes and fans to cosy up to one another. It will include integrations with leading social media sites like Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, foursquare and Google+, along with some content created on the site itself. The news comes at the same time that we have seen broadcasters like the BBC and NBC, Internet portals like Yahoo, and Facebook itself unveil their own digital Olympics strategies — all vying for the same eyeballs during the two-week event.
In light of all the other Olympics initiatives from third parties, on the face of it this looks like the IOC’s attempt to get its own grip on the event. There is certainly a market for Olympic content. The IOC says it already has some 2,000 athletes signed up to aggregate Twitter feeds, and that it already has more than 30,000 followers on Instagram in the 60 days since it launched an account. (The accounts are at @olympics and @facesofolympian.)
At the same time, there is also a drive from athletes themselves to communicate better with fans: “Social media has been a great way to connect with fans and share not just my stories but the stories of other amazing people and athletes. I regularly use it to share my experiences and provide inspiration,” said Oscar Pistorius, one of the athletes (South Africa, athletics) who attended a launch of the portal in London last night.
The centerpiece of the IOC’s approach will be the Olympic Athletes’ Hub, which will not only aggregate the Twitter and Facebook streams of Olympic athletes, but will be the window to all of the IOC’s other social endeavors.
The hub will include a separate section, Inside the Olympic Village where different athletes will appear for live chats with athletes staying in the village.
And there are more social media plans in the works: Instagram has also collaborated with the IOC on a special section for the hub called “Faces of Olympians” which aggregate photos taken of the athletes during the Games. This section is not yet live, but it looks like it will be a collection of candid-yet-official (read, not crowdsourced) pictures. Tagged with #facesofolympian, they will run on a separate “Faces” tab in the hub.
The IOC is also dabbling in a bit of social gaming: the Olympic Challenge (also yet to be launched) is a kind of “Fantasy Olympics” format, with fans to compete against friends and other fans predicting who will win what in different events. The game will be integrated with Facebook’s Open Graph, meaning the results will also appear in your feeds on the social network. The IOC doesn’t specify but it may well also appear on Facebook’s own Olympic page. Unlike some social games on Facebook or beyond, there doesn’t appear to be any fees associated with playing the game or financial rewards for winning.
Also coming up are Tumblr blogs covering a number of different aspects of the event: a general aggregation of social feeds; another for the Instagram photo feed; another for photos from Getty Images; and one more for Olympic fashion (street style in the village I supppose).
Foursquare is also being tapped for the event, with people being able to check in to different venues and get special Olympic Ticket badges with some free ticket giveaways in the process. More free tickets will come by way of a Facebook photo contest on its official page there, the IOC says. And as we mentioned at the Facebook launch, the IOC is also including a Google+ page into the mix.