Twitter sets record during 2012 Opening Ceremony

Steven Loeb · July 29, 2012 · Short URL:

10M tweets bringing both unity, controversy in Olympic Games; outpace all Tweets from Beijing games

There’s no doubt about it: Twitter is having an effect on the Olympic games. As social media grows, Twitter is generating both controversy and unprecedented interest in the games, helping to both bring people together and cause major problems for some impulsive athletes.

The opening ceremony, which Nielsen says drew 40 million people, the most ever for an opening ceremony, has already generated 9.66 million tweets, Twitter UK announced on Saturday.

Tweets were measured from the beginning of the ceremony at 8pm in London to the end of the tape delayed broadcast in the United States.

In a single day, the nearly 10 million tweets have already outpaced all of the tweets posted during the 2008 games in Beijing combined.

How much of an impact is Twitter having?

World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee had his message retweeted 10 million times!

Bluefin Labs, who seem to have only measured tweets in the U.S., from 7pm to 12 am Eastern Standard Time, reported five million social media mentions of the Olympics, attributing 4.86 of them to Twitter and the other 140,000 to Facebook.

According to Bluefin, this places the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony as the third biggest special event in TV history, behind the 2012 Grammy Awards, which they say had 13 million social media comments, and the 2012 BET Awards, which had eight million.

The 2012 Oscars and the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards round out the top five. notice how all five have taken place with the last year to get a good sense of how Twitter has grown since 2008.

The biggest spikes in social media came at the opening of the show, the appearance by James Bond and the Queen, when Team USA entered during the parade of nations and the performance by Paul McCartney, who tweeted this backstage picture right before going on.

Twitter bringing the world together

Looking at tweets from some of the athletes involved in the games can give a good sense of how incredibly lucky some of them feel to even be there.

For example, there is English hockey player Beth Storry, who tweeted her awe when she got to meet the Queen.

And USA Olympic water polo goalie Chay Lapin, who couldn't hold back his excitement just being at the games in the first place.

Twitter controversy

Of course, when you give people an open microphone to express their views, not all of them are going to come out looking so great.

The most infamous one so far this year was from Greek triple jumper Paraskevi Papachristou, who tweeted "With so many Africans in Greece, at least the mosquitoes of West Nile will eat homemade food!!!"

After accusations of racism, she remained defiant, tweeting, “"I'm not a stuck CD! And if I make mistakes, I do not hit replay! I continue playing!”

Papachristou eventually apologized, but was still removed by the Greek Olympic team. 

Then there was American runner Lolo Jones who on Saturday tweeted about how Americans would win a competition involving "gun shooting."

This came one week after the massacre which left 12 dead and over 50 wounded in Colorado, making many unhappy with the reference to how good Americans can be at shooting things.

It is not only athletes that can use Twitter to put their foot in their mouth.

British politician Aidan Burley stirred up controversy in his homeland when he sent out a tweet calling the Olympic Opening Ceremony “leftie multi-cultural crap.”

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