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The Most Social Games Ever

Jul 27, 2012  - Karin Helmstaedt

Pre-meet rituals were in progress - and on the eve of the London Olympics, that meant swimmers were heavily into manicures, pedicures, and full-scale shave-downs. In fact, there were even a number of A-list nail-painting parties going on in the athlete's village...with pics to show for it. And those who were off to opening ceremonies were literally making the cyberwaves sing with their excitement.

We know all of this thanks to Twitter, a favourite social medium of the aquatic community. The microblog service was only a few years old last time around in Beijing - and in 2012 the aquatic Twittersphere is a cacophonous mainstream feature that allows us intimate glimpses inside the athlete's preparation - their pre-race meals, their hamming it up, their publicity gigs, their workout ups and downs.

It has perhaps even changed the way people connect to the athletes and their private/public personae, because swimmers and even their coaches can react in real time to the expectations put upon them.

Canada's Chef de Mission, former swimmer and gold medalist Mark Tewksbury, marveled at the world that had opened up to him since he started twittering himself 2 months ago.

"What was fascinating to me was to start to follow the athletes and see the thousands and thousands of followers that they have. So I think that these different platforms have really helped the athletes get their stories out in a very different way."

Stories that people are more than eager to follow: American man of the hour Michael Phelps (@michaelphelps) has a whopping 286,500 followers for instance - his coach Bob Bowman (@coach_bowman) an impressive 13,000. Phelps' arch rival Ryan Lochte (@ryanlochte)  rings in at 147,200 - with another 145,000 likes on Facebook. Japanese double title defender in the breaststrokes Kosuke Kitajima (@kitajimakosuke) boasts 91,297 followers - Australian triple Olympic champion Stephanie Rice (@ItsStephRice) 70,300. And all of them are actively twittering personal status updates.

With all those hashtags a-flying (#olympics, #openingceremony, #weneedit, #gocanada...there are more to come!) it's a challenge to keep up...but it's not for nothing they're calling #london2012 "the most social Games ever" before they've even begun.

The thousands of hours of footage and live-streaming of major networks aside, the Canadian Olympic Committee, for one, offers all the help you may need in the form of a "Canada Cheers" app - newly launched today as part of its Give Your Everything campaign. The app will send Team Canada-related notifications to fans of Canadian athletes so they can share their support for the team by tweeting, posting, sharing.

And what makes it unique is that anytime a major event happens at the #Olympics, the COC can send a tweet - or #cheer - that gets pushed to everyone's app. Then users can simply retweet the cheer to cause the hashtags (#giveyoureverythingcanada) to trend - and make Canadians feel part of something bigger.

Not bad, eh? Fitting indeed that director Danny Boyle paid tribute to Sir Tim Berners-Lee in his opening ceremony. As the inventor of the internet, he paved the way for the forms of communication that continue to morph as we speak.

So #watchthisspace - and #letthegamesbegin. And just in case you missed them, don't forget to admire @FranklinMissy's toenails.