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Twitter Trolls and Twaddle Mar Social Olympics

The London Olympic Games has been called the Social Olympics because a lot of social media campaigning and advertising has been going on and because athletes and fans are expected to flood the ether with real-time comments and reviews. And boy, have they. We’re barely four (official) days into the Games and already athletes, journalists and fans have managed to grab headlines with their complete lack of social media savvy and sensitivity.


Even before the official opening ceremony, Greece cut one of its athletes from its team for a racist tweet about Africans and mosquitoes. It wasn’t the most offensive tweet ever posted but it was in poor taste and she really, really should have known better. Greek officials have been heavily criticised for over-reacting by suspending her, but image the deluge they would have faced had they done nothing.

A Swiss footballer, on the other hand, was very offensive after an ill-conceived tweet that was probably the result of misdirected anger and frustration. The Swiss team lost to South Korea, after which an aggrieved team member tweeted something nasty, which was almost immediately deleted and which has been translated in several different ways. According to one translation he said, “I f**K all Koreans, go all burn yourselves. Ahahahaha bunch of retards.” Another translation has it as: “I am going to batter all Koreans, burn them all … bunch of trisos.” Trisos being an unpleasant reference to Down’s syndrome. Either way, the man was sent packing.

We’ve also had another footballer post critical tweets about critical commentators and a US athlete who said something idiotic about America and its predilection for guns.


Four years ago Tom Daley was young British diving sensation who carried the weight of the country on his broad shoulders. This year he’s still a young British diving sensation but the gloss has worn off, as someone even younger than he is tweeted some especially nasty comments. They were so nasty, in fact, that he was arrested on suspicion of malicious communications and is “helping the police with their enquiries”.

That’s not all; following a synchronised diving disaster Daley received another horrible tweet in which a user told him he was a disappointment to his dad. Daley’s dad died from brain cancer last year. The man has tried to backtrack like mad, but the whole world now knows that he’s an idiot.


This is, arguably, not the journalist’s fault. He tweeted some unfavourable comments regarding NBC network’s coverage of the Games and his account was suspended. He also gave out someone’s corporate email address and encouraged his followers to pass on their comments. Now, that was not smart. Nevertheless, the whole thing has called into question Twitter’s neutrality vs. its (paid for or tacit) sponsorship obligations.


Interestingly, rampant social media use has led to some technical problems. As everyone and their uncle reached for the smartphones to let their friends and followers in on the action during the cycling races, the GPS transmitters on cyclists’ bikes went on the fritz and TV commentators were stymied by a complete lack of real-time updates. It’s led organisers to ask fans to “take it kind of easy” during events.

It looks very much like this will be an amazingly social Olympics; we just hope that the lessons learned now and over the course of the next four years will ensure that the next Games is socially scandal-free.

(Image credit: Marc Girod, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, via Flickr)

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