LONDON - The explosion of social networking has changed sport for fans and athletes with experts predicting the greater interaction will mean the demise of passive armchair sports fans by the 2020 Olympics.
The London Olympics have been dubbed the first "social media Games" with sports fans and athletes heavy users of Facebook, Twitter and the video-sharing site YouTube to talk about events as they happen and show them immediately.
Sebastian Coe, Olympic gold medallist and chairman of the London organizing committee, LOCOG, said people will no longer passively consume the Games from their armchairs. "They are part of the action. They can comment on content, interact with the athletes, create and publish their own content," he said in a study on the future of technology and sport by Atos, an Olympic sponsor which provides the IT operations for the Games.
"Never before has there been such a channel to interact with the world, especially with young people," he added, stressing the importance of the younger generation's interest in the Olympics. The change has happened fast, he said, which has wide reaching implications for the commercialization of sport and how companies target fans. At the time of the 2000 Games in Sydney few people had fast Internet connections. In Athens in 2004, not many people had smartphones. At the Beijing Olympics in 2008 there were 100million people using Facebook but that figure has soared to about 900million. Twitter was new in 2008 but now has more than 500m users who send about 400m tweets daily with sports news regularly broken on the micro-blogging network.