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December 16 2009

17:44

How the Olympics Can Thrive in the Digital Age

I'm honored to share that an essay I wrote was selected by the International Olympic Committee for inclusion in the official book that was distributed at the Olympic Congress held in Copenhagen from October 3 to 5. This was a great opportunity, especially given our work on SochiReporter. Here's an image of the book's cover:

Cover VOC.JPG

I submitted my essay in March as part of the Virtual Olympic Congress, an open international competition that was announced by the IOC in the early fall of 2007. Here's what the IOC said about the competition:

Via the "Virtual Olympic Congress," a dedicated website, over 1,700 people from 90 countries submitted their thoughts on the five themes of the Congress following the "Call for Contributions" launched two years ago. The website was designed to accept written contributions on the themes of the Congress in the form of a written contribution of 1,000 words or less.

One hundred contributions from the general public were chosen by the Congress Editorial Committee for inclusion in the official Congress book, and 20 of those contributors were invited to Copenhagen to attend the Congress. Ten men and ten women from 15 countries around the world spent three days in the Danish capital along with the members of the Olympic family.

Nearly 1,400 Submissions

For the first time in the history of the Olympic Congress, the general public was given the opportunity to have their say on the topics being discussed at the gathering. The IOC invited contributions from anyone, anywhere in the world between October 2007 and March 2009.

The IOC asked people to write about one of five themes. The most popular theme was "Olympic Games: How to keep the Games as a premier event", which received 300 contributions out of 1,319; "Olympic Games: Olympic values" received roughly 240 contributions; and "Olympics and Youth: Moving towards an active society" received about 160 contributions. Roughly 100 submissions were devoted to my topic, which was "The Digital Revolution: How to increase the size of the sports audience." My piece was called, "Olympic Audiences in the Wired World."

In the end, there were 1,319 submissions from 1,148 contributors in 90 countries. Singapore was responsible for the most submissions (249), followed by the U.S. (176) and Japan (129). Interestingly, 276 of the submitted essays focused on rugby. This is because the International Rugby Board encouraged people to write in order to show their support for the inclusion of rugby in future Olympics.

Olympic Audiences in the Wired World

My essay ("Olympic Audiences in the Wired World") was devoted to the future of the Olympics in the digital age. I gave my vision of how the Olympic brand should evolve and adapt to the demands of the wired world, and how it can embrace the challenges brought by new technology. I suggested that the IOC experiment in exciting ways with new media in order to bring its message to communities throughout the world.

Here's an excerpt of my submission:

The answer [to increasing the size of the Olympics audience] lies in the essence of content and content diversification. It's important to provide TV and web viewers (who are getting more and more sophisticated) with more detailed, insider Olympic-related content. However, the focus point should be not just in relying more on the one-way online video streaming of the Games, but on attracting Internet users to shape virtual communities around the various aspects of the Olympic Games. This would enable the IOC representatives to more specifically aim at certain audiences and adjust the content and distribution methods to the demands of those audiences and groups...It is vital to offer effective ways of diversifying content in order to reach a larger and more effectively targeted audience.

In the digital age web users are not just content consumers. They are content producers. And this is the key point which should be considered when thinking about and shaping the successful future of the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement in the new media era.

I then offered examples of how some media and entertainment industry giants realized the potential for interacting with their fans, and worked to create online communities and involve people in the marketing of their products. I described how this helped them to extend their brands.

One positive sign is that the IOC embraced social media to help promote the Virtual Olympic Congress. It created a Facebook page, and established an Olympic Congress YouTube channel. It also announced a new video contest that invites people to submit video responses to the question, "How do you see the future of the Olympics?"

Personally, I see the future of the Olympics as being inextricably linked to digital media and online communities. What do you think?

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