THE FIRST SOCIAL OLYMPICS
You’ve likely heard it before, and you’re going to hear it dozens of times in the next couple months: We’re about to experience the first truly social Olympics. Yes, Facebook and Twitter were around for Beijing in 2008, but those sites were blocked in China, plus Twitter had fewer than 1 million users back then.
In 2010, some labeled the Vancouver Games “the first social Olympics,” but athletes, traditional media and the International Olympic Committee were still leery of fully embracing social media.
When the world converges on London at the end of July, we’ll be more connected than ever before. There will be some convoluted restrictions and a few athletes may even ban themselves, but there’s no question social media will be a gigantic story before, during and after London.
Before social media, the first time you’d hear about most Olympians would be during the Games themselves — Cue Bob Costas, sappy music and grab a box of tissues. Now, thanks to social media, and Twitter in particular, you can get a head start getting to know the people you’ll be watching.
We’ve compiled a list of 30 Olympic-related Twitter accounts to get you going. We won’t delve too deep. This is just a starter set mostly made up of American medal hopefuls, some media and a few official accounts. You may already follow most, some or none, but hopefully it’ll help you get ready to be social this summer.
Lolo Jones @lolojones: We’ll start with an obvious one. Hurdler Lolo Jones has been one of the most entertaining athletes on Twitter for a while, but a pre-Olympics push through traditional channels has made her more than a passing curiosity. Sure, her sex life — or lack thereof — has drawn most of the attention, but her wit and talent make her more than just a pretty face with an interesting backstory. (There’s a catch here: Jones hasn’t been running well lately and she’s not a lock to make a loaded hurdles team.)
Usain Bolt @usainbolt: This Jamaican made our jaw drops in Beijing. He may make our heads explode in London. Usain Bolt has a marketing army around him, so it’s unclear how many tweets are actually coming from him. But Bolt (and his team) provide a solid behind-the-scenes look at the world’s fastest man.
Bryan Clay @bryanclay: From the world’s fastest man, to the man who earned the title of “world’s best athlete” four years ago. Bryan Clay could make history in London, becoming the first decathlete to win three Olympic medals. His Twitter feed is as strong as he is, plus, he has something in common with George Costanza.
Did you know? Growing up, I either wanted to be a professional athlete or a marine biologist :) #fb
— Bryan Clay (@bryanclay) May 26, 2012
Michael Phelps @michaelphelps & Ryan Lochte @ryanlochte: While track will dominate headlines during the second half of the Games, the first half belongs to swimming. Michael Phelps won’t win any medals for his average tweeting, but since he’ll likely become the most-decorated Olympian of all-time in London, he’s a must follow. Phelps won’t match his Beijing gold medal haul, mostly because of Ryan Lochte. Like Phelps, Lochte’s not a gold medal tweeter, but he could win a pile of medals, the ladies love him and honestly, how many of us could pull off a talent call like this?
Natalie Coughlin @nataliecoughlin & Missy Franklin @franklinmissy: Natalie Coughlin’s Twitter account paints the picture of a girl-next-door who could beat you up if you say something bad about the awesome dinner she just made from her carefully-maintained garden. She left Athens and Beijing as the most-decorated female athlete of those Games and she’s back for more in London. But Coughlin may end up being overshadowed by upstart Missy Franklin. The 17-year-old won five medals in last year’s World Championships and she could be the break-out star of London’s first week.
Stephanie Rice @ItsStephRice: Jaguar apparently hasn’t minded its inclusion in some scandalous storylines in this season’s “Mad Men,” but the company didn’t hesitate to drop Stephanie Rice during a real-life controversy in 2010. Rice has been more careful on Twitter since then, but the Australian swimming star is still very much engaging and is well worth a follow.
Ricky Berens @rickyberens: Since he’s a client, we’re not impartial, but Ricky Berens could be the most engaging swimmer on Twitter. His social media efforts have helped attract sponsors, something that’s essential for any swimmer not named Phelps or Lochte. Berens has taken self-branding to an Olympian level. He recently designed, coded and launched his own website and he’s one of the first and only swimmers to have a personal logo. On Twitter, he replies to nearly every mention, he’s held numerous contests and he’s vowed to give as much of a behind-the-scenes look at London as the regulations and his schedule allow.
1 Day down for the T-shirt design contest! Get your designs in for your chance to win! All the details and instructions rickyberens.com/?p=1457
— Ricky Berens (@RickyBerens) May 30, 2012
Nastia Liukin @nastialiukin & Jordyn Wieber @jordyn_wieber: After winning gymnastics all-around gold in Beijing, Nastia Liukin took three years off. She’ll definitely become a focus of NBC if she completes her comeback by making the U.S. team next month. 2011 all-around World Champion Jordyn Wieber will most certainly win a spot, and while her Twitter feed is that of a typical 16-year-old, she’s a good follow for an inside look at one of the Olympic’s most-popular events.
Novak Djokovic @djokernole: The world’s top-ranked tennis player is also really good at Twitter. He shares tons of pictures through our friends at WhoSay, plus you could also brush up on your Serbian.
Caroline Wozniacki @carowozniacki: Since we’ve already included one “Seinfeld” reference, here’s another: Caroline Wozniacki and golfer Rory McIlroy could be the “schmoopy” sports couple on Twitter. In between tweets of support for her boyfriend, Wozniacki does fill her timeline with quality content, including almost immediate analysis of each of her matches.
Kevin Love @kevinlove: Speaking of love…Kevin Love’s not guaranteed a spot on the U.S. basketball team, but he’s a decent bet. If he does head to London, the Twitter-talented Love could give us the best behind-the-scenes look at one of the most star-studded teams at the Games.
Misty May-Treanor @mistymaytreanor & Kerri Walsh @kerrileewalsh: NBC had a love affair with this beach volleyball duo in 2004 and 2008, and they’ll likely get a good deal of attention again. They’re each very active on Twitter, giving good insight into their training, and trying to make the world a better place one litterer at a time:
Ellis Coleman @daflyinsquirrel & Jordan Burroughs @alliseeisgold: Seriously, WATCH THIS NOW. The guy in the blue, the guy famous for his move called “the flying squirrel,” has just 554 followers. Let’s change that before Ellis Coleman gets to London. Another U.S. wrestler worth a follow is Jordan Burroughs. He doesn’t have a YouTube clip that’ll make you blurt “OH MY,” but he’s incredibly active on Twitter and his @alliseeisgold is one of the best handles out there.
Alex Morgan @alexmorgan13: If you haven’t been following Alex Morgan since the U.S. run in the Women’s World Cup last year, it’s time to correct your mistake. Sure, Morgan isn’t unattractive, but she’s also sure to take us on a Twitter ride while the U.S. women go for gold in London.
MORE TO COME:
That’s it for Part 1 of our list. We’ll post Part 2, with media and official account suggestions, next week.
In the meantime, the list of athletes above just skims the tip of the iceberg. What other suggestions do you have of athlete accounts we should follow ahead of the London Games? Let us know in the comments below!