Twitter turns the world into Olympic village

hide

After Michael Phelps set the record for most Olympic medals, President Obama tweeted, "Congrats to Michael Phelps for breaking the all-time Olympic medal record. You've made your country proud. -bo" Phelps wrote back: "Thank you Mr. President!! It's an honor representing the #USA !! The best country in the world!!" Phelps is pictured with coach Bob Bowman, left.

Photo: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

LONDON - At these Olympics, Twitter is fire. Depending on how it's used, it can warm like a gas fireplace or scald like a blowtorch.

Twitter, the 140-character social media site, was barely a blip on the radar during the Beijing Olympics. Four years later, there are reportedly more than 500 million registered users worldwide, and the social media site has made a bigger impact in London than some Olympic teams.

In the past week: Two athletes were sent home from the Olympics for racist tweets; a current U.S. women's soccer player used it to chastise a former member of the program; a journalist had his account suspended after criticizing NBC's coverage, and countless viewers have used Twitter to complain about delayed television coverage -- and their inability to avoid Twitter long enough to avoid finding out results before events are aired in prime time.

Those are only some examples, though most athletes use Twitter as a safe way to be accessible.

Michael Phelps' record for most career Olympic medals has been the story of the Games so far, and it quickly became one of the most celebrated stories on Twitter. Late Tuesday night, after Phelps set the record, President Obama tweeted, "Congrats to Michael Phelps for breaking the all-time Olympic medal record. You've made your country proud. -bo"

Phelps wrote back: "Thank you Mr. President!! It's an honor representing the #USA !! The best country in the world!!"

But within a few days of arriving in London, two athletes embarrassed their countries via Twitter. The Swiss Olympic Committee sent home soccer player Michel Morganella for a racist tweet about South Koreans. The Greeks did the same with hurdler Voula Papachristou for a racist tweet about "Africans.''

American hurdler Lolo Jones did not face overt punishment for her tweet, in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., that read, "USA Men's Archery lost the gold medal to Italy but that's OK, we are Americans...When's da Gun shooting competition?''

U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Patrick Sandusky said the organization does not restrict athletes' tweets. "We just ask them to use their judgment,'' he said.

USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun believes the Americans' use of Olympic mentors has helped athletes. Since 2008, the organization has asked former Olympians to meet with new members of the team to inform them of issues they may face, including the damage that can be done by an ill-considered tweet or Facebook post. Gold medalists Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Dan O'Brien were among those who spoke to track and field athletes at the Olympic trials in June as part of the USOC's ambassador program.

Minnesota athletes at the Games have had fun with Twitter. Lindsey Berg, the former Gophers volleyball player, and the three members of the Minnesota Lynx, Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore, have provided running commentaries on their activities in London while promoting their sports. Marathoner Kara Goucher tweets pictures of her son, Colt. Rower Megan Kalmoe, who won a bronze medal on Wednesday, favors tweeting pictures of muscular male athletes. Timberwolves star Kevin Love has delighted in tweeting photos of his Team USA basketball teammates when they're asleep. Millionaires have never looked so much like kids at a slumber party.

U.S. fencer Mariel Zagunis, who carried the flag in the Opening Ceremony, said it boils down to a simple idea. "For me,'' she said, "it's just about being smart and respectful.''

USA soccer goalie Hope Solo tweeted that former star Brandi Chastain should not be allowed to work as a TV commentator after Chastain criticized the team's play. But expressing differences of opinion is a common occurrence on Twitter; what proved shocking was the suspension of a journalist's account. Guy Adams, Los Angeles correspondent for the Independent, a British newspaper, ridiculed NBC's coverage early in the Games.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Twitter, which is partnering with NBC to cover the Olympics, notified NBC about Adams' criticisms and his inclusion of the work e-mail address of the NBC president of Olympics. Twitter suspended Adams' account, saying he broke the site's rule about including personal information such as e-mail addresses in tweets. Twitter later reinstated Adams' account and apologized.

The use of athletes' social media accounts to promote non-Olympic sponsors created controversy earlier this week. An International Olympic Committee rule specifically says athletes can't mention their own sponsors on social media during the Games. Several U.S. athletes protested -- on Twitter -- to object to the rule, which is meant to protect official sponsors who pay millions to be associated with the Olympics.

"Social media is so huge now and we're able to market ourselves in ways we haven't before, so it is definitely a different feeling having some restrictions on that," American distance runner Julie Culley said Wednesday. "But for the most part it's just been for being friendly. ... Instead of running into someone in the dining hall, you can get to know them on social media."

  • related content

  • Team USA Swimmers answered questions Thursday afternoon to a packed press room. Michael Phelps has a chance to break an all time most decorated olympic athlete with just three more medals at the London Games. Here, Phelps pulled out his iPhone to take a picture of the hundreds of reporters who had gathered to ask him questions.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cleveland 86 FINAL
Indiana 93
Washington 81 FINAL
Philadelphia 89
Golden State 113 FINAL
Toronto 89
New York 121 FINAL
Detroit 115
Orlando 88 FINAL
Atlanta 95
Charlotte 98 FINAL
Boston 106
LA Clippers 97 FINAL
Memphis 79
Brooklyn 98 FINAL
Houston 102
Miami 102 FINAL
New Orleans 104
Minnesota 89 FINAL
Chicago 96
Utah 104 FINAL
Denver 82
San Antonio 107 FINAL
Sacramento 96
Milwaukee 93 FINAL
LA Lakers 101
Oklahoma City 112 FINAL
Portland 115
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 2
Calgary 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Washington 0 FINAL
Carolina 3
Chicago 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Colorado 5 FINAL(SO)
Dallas 4
Los Angeles 2 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Siena 63 FINAL
Quinnipiac 73
Harvard 49 FINAL
Cornell 57
Penn 69 FINAL
Brown 75
Fairfield 65 FINAL
Canisius 72
Manhattan 75 FINAL
Iona 79
Saint Peters 67 FINAL
Marist 69
Princeton 60 FINAL
Yale 81
Ohio 58 FINAL
Akron 70
Dartmouth 84 FINAL
Columbia 71
Valparaiso 56 FINAL
Cleveland State 53
Louisiana Tech 75 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 88
Seton Hall 77 FINAL
Xavier 60
Cornell 54 FINAL
Harvard 60
Yale 49 FINAL
(14) Princeton 67
Elon 51 FINAL
Drexel 54
Northeastern 47 FINAL
James Madison 82
St Johns 60 FINAL
Butler 49
Creighton 71 FINAL
Georgetown 62
Brown 58 FINAL
Penn 75
Columbia 50 FINAL
Dartmouth 60
Canisius 54 FINAL
Siena 58
St Josephs Brooklyn 35 FINAL
NJIT 78
Western Carolina 86 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 80
Colorado 66 FINAL
Arizona 51
Southern Ill 72 FINAL
Bradley 66
Drake 59 FINAL
Wichita State 80
Indiana State 71 FINAL
Evansville 53
Illinois State 53 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 67
Northern Iowa 70 FINAL
Missouri State 72
Utah 42 FINAL
(10) Arizona State 46
Providence 62 FINAL
Villanova 71

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: With Adrian Peterson's suspension overturned, what should the Vikings do?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close