This was to be the “social media olympics.” Obviously when the fine folks at the IOC dubbed it so, they meant certain specific things by it: they’d partnered with Facebook and Twitter, and they’d decided which tweets were OK—and which weren’t.
Well, when it comes to these Olympic Internets, things rarely work out as planned.
So what did the first Internet Olympics turn out to be?
For reasons that will soon become apparent, I think that question is best answered with this GIF.
Broadly, the Internet did what comes naturally: GIFs and memes.
In the lead up to the London games, newly minted Duchess (or Princess? Whatever.) Kate Middleton scored a point in table tennis (really, that’s an Olympic sport?). Some of the finer moments, such as Danell Levya’s horizontal bar routine or Kevin Durant’s long basket against Argentina, were immortalized similarly—as of course, were some of the less-fine moments, as when France’s Nic Batum popped Spain’s Juan Carlos Navarro right in the pills. (It was funny on America’s Funniest home videos, but it’s funnier at the Olympics). Even better, we can relive the games’ most controversial moments, such as South Korea’s Shin A Lam losing her fencing match in the longest last second ever.
But the best GIFs were those that showcase the GIF’s true highest use: the reaction. Whether it was Serena Williams’s victory dance, or Will Claye praying before the long jump, it was in the moments before and after that the GIF really shone.
Well before the Olympics started, the fine users of Canvas were already getting in on the Games (practice is so important), bringing the memes to their favorite Olympic events.
Immediately after the Olympics began, people who’d shelled out big money for the “sold-out” seats were displeased to find huge sections unoccupied. Fortunately, the Internet came to the rescue, filling the stands with their own: memes.
Despite the many social advances in these Olympics, one important group of athletes—a group particularly important to the Internet—was left out. Cats. Fortunately, the Internet was ready to take matters into its own hands. Nicolas Longtin created this series of great Olympic moments, starring his favorite felines.
My favorite, however, is “McKayla is Not Impressed.” McKayla Maroney, a sure thing in the women’s vault, failed to “stick the landing” and it cost her the gold. Maroney probably should have listened to her mother more carefully, because she didn’t do much to hide her disappointment with her silver medal. Now, for ever-and-all-time, the rest of us can enjoy McKayla’s dismissive reaction to any number of events that dazzle the more-easily amused: the Mars landing, the capture of Osama bin Laden, Washington crossing the Delaware. And Chippendales.
The great thing about the Internet is that it increases the ability of every human being (with a broadband connection) to be heard.
The terrible thing about the Internet is it increases the ability of every human being to be heard. And the Olympics are no exception.
Sadly, people of all nationalities, creeds, and ethnicities coming together in celebration of human physical achievement does not bring out the best in everyone. In some, it brings out their worst fears, prejudices, and antipathies. Whether it’s been jingoism, racism, religious intolerance, or sexual discrimination, the Games have brought out the trolls and worse.
We may applaud the IOC for its promotion of the highest ideals of the Olympics, but it’s hard to hold on to that when they’re clearly more concerned with their revenue streams.
We’re all familiar, of course, with the #nbcfail histrionics, which reached their fever pitch with the apparent suspension and reinstatement of Twitter user and journalist, Guy Adams, whose crime was publishing NBC Olympics president Gary Zenkel’s email address. And, at this point, we’ve all heard about the IOC’s lock on all sponsorship.
I mean, I understand the Olympics are an expensive proposition. But come on. Stay classy, IOC.
We passed practical realism long ago and reached travesty this morning. Australian BMX rider Caroline Buchanan found herself in hot water after she tweeted a photo of a bucket of kangaroo condoms—for the gland downunder.
Were officials concerned about the portrayal of the Olympic village as one enormous orgy (full of under-age athletes) and the effect that might have on the world’s youth who view these people as national heroes?
As Chuck Testa would say, NOPE!
The official Olympic brand of condoms is Durex.
The Olympics aren’t perfect, of course. There are trolls. Athletes who usually labor in obscurity suddenly have the spotlight thrust on them as representatives of their nation on the international stage—and they don’t always rise to the challenge. There’s a lot of silliness, from the IOC’s brand protection to the dramarama over whether NBC is going to show your favorite sport during primetime.
And the Internet has only turned up the volume on all of it.
The animated GIF is maybe the silliest part of the Internet, and yet...
Even the most disinterested, hard-hearted, snarky jerkwad-of-an-Olympics-hater, i.e. me, cannot watch South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius, the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics, attempt (and fail) to qualify for the 400-meter track event without suddenly learning why the Olympics matter. Watching this guy run is inspiring. You want him to win even if he has to beat every American to do it.
The Olympics bring us together as part of a single, worldwide human community.
In that sense the virtue of the Olympics is also the virtue of Internet. And the Internet has, as it has in every other way, also turned up the volume on the good bits. Because we’ve got it in GIF, we can relive Pistorius’s historic run immediately and forever.
Photo by Pusheen