So many people were using Twitter during the cycling road race event in the 2012 Olympics that television coverage failed. If one can get past the dubious amount of finger pointing that occurred during and after the bicycle coverage for the 2012 Olympic games, you’ll find a story well worn: one company blaming another, with users being the true “culprit”. Regardless of who is at fault, it’s clear that organizers and providers were caught unaware of the power behind social media’s massive data usage, leaving Olympic organizers to use their own watches to determine times for bicyclists.
The situation, as described in the Guardian, is as such:
Olympic organisers have blamed spectators using Twitter for disrupting television coverage of the cycling road races. Viewers were left in the dark about timing and positions after electronic updates failed to reach commentators during both the men’s and women’s events.
The BBC blamed the Olympic Broadcasting Service (OBS) for the lack of information which left commentator Chris Boardman using his own watch to estimate timings. But the International Olympic Committee said fans sending updates to Twitter while watching the race had in effect jammed transmissions of race information.
Gary Bahadur (author of Securing the Clicks: Network Security in the Age of Social Media) explained how the impact of twitter couldn’t be projected, but should have at least been assumed: “how can you anticipate [the impact of twitter] either? You don’t know what it’s going to be like – it’s a live event. It’s surprising that nobody had a second mechanism in place, especially during a live event. They should have expected it simply because everything is shared on twitter – especially something like this.”
He went on to explain how this isn’t going to simply be resolved by the next Olympic games: Bahadur makes a prediction that, four years from now, the concern will be streaming video, and how to handle that impact on data (as well as legal ramifications).