For the upcoming 2008 Beijing Olympics, the digital revolution is poised to attract a younger, more tech-savvy audience with the Internet’s movement to mobile. In the United States, NBC will offer 3,600 hours of coverage of the August 8-24 Games; triple its offering from the Athens Games, and about a third of this will be streamed over the Internet.
The Summer Olympic Games is one of the sporting and television highlights of the year for today's parents and grandparents. In addition, the average age of viewers for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens was over 40 and it shows no signs of falling.
But with the help of technology, the Olympic experience could open up to a far wider audience.
According to Shoba Purushothaman, CEO of Web-based video marketing platform, The NewsMarket, digital media will have a transforming impact on the Olympics at multiple levels.
"It will change story-telling for the Games by making it more human and personal,” believes Purushothaman.
With the Olympics’ movement to the Internet and with the large amount of young people with access to the Internet, it’s hard not to wonder why they aren't tuning in. A recent Reuters (News
) report stated that in the 21st century, young people have a wide variety of sport, music and entertainment media to flick through, both on television and the Internet, and the Olympics has no special aura for many of them.
"The Olympic Games are not that credible or relevant to most young people in the developed or developing world," says Alex Balfour, head of new media at the London 2012 organizing committee.
Many youngsters claim that they will just “watch the highlight shows” on TV later in the evening, but do not see themselves watching it live.
However, the Olympics could lose billions of dollars from sponsorship and broadcasting rights if it loses its prestige.
Experts said months before the Summer Games in Beijing, which is being dubbed as the first digital Olympics, platforms and access to communities in the digital world could be just as important in deciding if the Olympics retain their high profile.
With the increased fascination of social networking sites among young people, the Olympic Games will be played out on Facebook, YouTube (News
) and Flickr, in an effort to engage them.
Streaming video from the Olympics over the Internet is a smart strategy as U.S. Internet users viewed more than 12 billion online videos during May, according to digital research firm Comscore. This is a 45 percent increase over the year before. Also, about one-third of those videos viewed were on YouTube, owned by Google (News
Blogging is also highly encouraged for today’s youth during the Olympics. In February, the IOC said it would allow blogging by athletes for the first time at August's Games. In 2010, the 3,500 competitors at the inaugural Youth Olympics will be urged to have their own blog, reported Reuters.
"Technology is the key enabler for the Olympic Games," said Alexander Vronski, technology vice president for the Sochi Winter Games of 2014. "New media can engage nations."
Advances in technology will also help a shine light on minority sports via streaming video on Web sites and digital television.
Also, 3G mobile phone technology could also have a huge impact on the Olympics, allowing athletes and visitors in the Chinese capital to share their experiences to those back home. People taking photos and video with their cell phones will change the way we watch the Games.
Now, people can use their cell phones to view Olympic clips while they are on their way to work, traveling, or out with friends. Watching the Olympics is no longer limited to a viewer’s living room TV.
Jon Tibbs, whose public relations company has several Olympic clients, says the "digital marketplace has the potential to re-engage hundreds of millions of people with sport" and, as an added benefit to the Olympic movement, re-energize the interest of consumer companies in sponsoring the Games.
With only one more day before the Games debuts (8/8/08 at 8pm), it will be interesting to see how much of a role technology plays in gaining the attention of viewers.
Michelle Robart is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Michelle's articles, please visit her columnist page.