2012 Summer Olympics: London Gets the Facebook Treatment

Avi Wolfman-ArentCorrespondent IIJune 19, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 08:  Olympian Michael Phelps (L) and Alex Craddock, Head of North America Marketing, Visa Inc. prepare for a live video chat with fans on May 8, 2012 in New York City. Fans around the world can create and submit a cheer on Visa's Facebook page.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for Visa)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

One Olympic cycle ago, George W. Bush was President of the United Sates, Bieber Fever was still in quarantine and Mark Zuckerberg was just another techie phenom worth a modest $1.5 billion.

On the eve of the 2012 London Games, Zuckerberg checks in at about $20 billion, and his maiden company Facebook is nothing short of omnipresent. Naturally, the Olympics are no exception.

According to PCMag, social media's resident kingpins at Facebook recently kick-started an "Explore London 2012" page that links users to prominent athletes and provides additional insight into the history of the Games and its many disciplines. The idea is to integrate everything about this two-week spectacle into one convenient feed: sport, ceremony, celebrity, history and breaking news.

From a small and perpetually disaffected segment of the population, I expect the usual grumbling about how technology is invading every corner of our lives and how we don't live outside of our virtual bubbles.

To them I ask simply: What century are you living in?

The Olympics belong to the world—not just America but the entirety of this spinning mass. In ever-increasing numbers, that world communicates via social media—specifically Facebook. For example, the number of registered Facebook users is up 24% in Vietnam, 17% in Mozambique and 12% in Nigeria. And that's just in the last month.

Compare those numbers to the ones from four years ago and you're bound to find some vast differences. The growth of the past quadrennium is so dramatic, in fact, that some folks have taken to calling London the "First Social Media Olympic Games."

As with most bold labels, the title is a bit reductionist and inflexible, but it angles at an essential truth.

Social media plays an increasingly important role in how we interact as a global community. To ignore that is foolish. To rail against it is futile.

The Olympics would rather avoid either camp, and something as simple as a partnership Facebook page proves they understand the direction in which we're all heading.