The International Olympic Committee’s Facebook page enlisted its millionth Games fan this week as the IOC continued its expanded digital outreach on multiple platforms. With Olympic enthusiasts joining the Facebook fan network at a rate of about 10 per second at peak times, the fan base crossed the million milestone late on Tuesday - less than a month after the page was created.
The IOC has significantly expanded its use of social media and other online communications tools to engage younger audiences, promote Olympic values and share the magic of the Games with the largest possible audience.
Victoria McCallum of Richmond, Canada, the site of the Olympic speed skating venue, was among those who joined the recording-setting Facebook surge on Tuesday night. McCallum, 33, said she signed up on after watching the Torch Relay earlier in the day. "I want to get updates as the Olympics are going on", she said on Wednesday. "I’ve followed the Olympics before, but it’s obviously more exciting when it’s your home town".
The 2010 Games will see several other milestones in the IOC’s embrace of new media. For the first time in Olympic history, the amount of digital coverage online and on mobile phones will be on par with the amount of television coverage – about 21,000 hours for each. In another sign of the times, the mobile platform will come into its own with an anticipated record 6,000 hours of coverage worldwide.
In Canada, every second of the action will be streamed in high-definition live over the Internet for the first time in Olympic Winter Games history.
In Europe, more than 40 broadcasters will offer live streaming, as well as delayed material, on their web sites.
In the United States, NBC will provide more than 400 hours of live competition coverage from Vancouver online.
Social networks are a key element of the IOC’s effort to promote the universality of the Games.
In addition to Facebook, the IOC web site, http://www.olympic.org/, links to Twitter, www.twitter.com/olympics, and Flickr, www.flickr.com/groups/olympicphotos. The IOC has also launched its own digital channel, www.youtube.com/olympic, to broadcast video highlights from past Olympic Games.
More than 55 per cent of the Facebook Games fans are women, and about a third are under 17 years of age. Countries with the largest participation are the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Chile and Serbia. The most common languages among the participants are English, Spanish, French and Indonesian.
Participation is sure to grow during the Games with the addition of new features. A new application, http://apps.facebook.com/vancouver-minigame/, lets online fans around the world compete in a version of the official video game of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games.
On 12 February, the IOC will launch a photo competition that will let Games fans in Vancouver share their photos. The winners will receive free tickets to the Games and have their photos posted on other high-traffic Olympic web sites, including olympic.org and vancouver2010.com.