With the 2010 Winter Olympics starting in Vancouver, one of the more interesting aspects will be the role of social media.
Alexandra Samuel has described it as “a living social media experiment“:
Social media was around for the Summer Games in Beijing, but this is the first time it will be deployed in a free and democratic regime. There’s good reason to expect that the Olympic experience will be transformed by the social media presence: it’s already changed the Olympic planning process for both the Games organizers and the media that’s now descending on the city.
The Olympics tend to be one of the most tightly controlled media events in the world, with restrictions to protect the media companies that have paid millions of dollars for the rights.
In an interview with CBC Vancouver, I questioned the IOC’s approach to the media, such as its definition of blogging as personal expression and not journalism.
In the words of Dan Gillmor, the Olympic Committee is trying to accomodate social media, but there still is “residual cluelessness.”
Alongside the ranks of professional journalists in Vancouver and Whistler, there will be scores of independent and “citizen” journalists. No doubt many will be using blogs as a publishing platform for journalism.
For some, the hope is that “with Vancouver’s active social justice scene, the Olympics could be a lot more inclusive and dialogue-focused than other mega media events.”
A concrete (literally) example of this is the W2′s Media House in downtown Vancouver. It will provide resources and support for independent journalists and bloggers who are covering the Winter Games.
There is likely to be a wealth of media coming from fans capturing the action on their cellphones or sharing their impressions on blogs, Facebook or Twitter.
The Vancouver Organising Committee, VANOC, has itself branched out to YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, recognising the increasingly role of social media.