The Olympics – building culture one tweet at a time

Many years ago, while our staff forum at the BBC was in its heyday, someone commented that the forum had done more to build a “one BBC” culture than any of the corporate initiatives under the same name. It wasn’t mandated, it wasn’t managed, it wasn’t even particularly anticipated or planned. People did it themselves one conversation at a time, one post at a time.

In advance of the Olympics I had seen the games as the equivalent of those corporate initiatives – a jingoistic, over managed, orchestrated, corporately funded, modern equivalent of bread and circuses.


With the Olympics, as with our forum at the BBC, we are seeing people come together one tweet at a time, one Facebook update at a time, and building something really special. We have been learning as we go that social tools are capable of more than just updating the world as to what we had for breakfast. They are capable of helping us build and share culture. To rub shoulders virtually and to take collective ownership of how we see the world and what we do about it.

These social games have in fact proved to be a wonderful celebration of a culture of which I am actually very proud. A multicultural, tolerant, energetic Britain that I believe could teach the rest of the world a thing or two about how to build and sustain a civilised way of living together. Even some of the uncomfortable moments detailed in my previous post have been learned about, understood and reacted to collectively online.

The BBC has done a wonderful job of covering the games but at the same time we are shrugging off the need for the media or politicians to tell us what things mean, and are getting better at working it out for ourselves.

Even if I still don’t get the sport – this is really exciting!

8 thoughts on “The Olympics – building culture one tweet at a time

  1. Countries and communities ahve been 'uniting' behind the games for centuries. With that unity lasting sometimes as long as weeks after the closing ceremony. Do you really think that the addition of social media that 'this time things willl be different'? The Olympics is a global contribution to the practice of bread and circuses by which we are misdirected and defused….


  2. I agree that the impact and focus of the games will wane. I also nearly put in my post that this learning has been taking place before the games and will continue after. I do believe however that they are accelerating the learning and the way athletes are connecting with people online is definitely new and shifting the nature of celebrity culture which in turn will affect the ability of those in power to manipulate that culture.


  3. I know you're not a sports fan, but the life of a supporter is usually one of tribes. It means social media can be a mixed bag of sharing euphoria and targeted sniping. The difference with the Olympics is that the tribes have gone. And it's brilliant. It's a shared experience and certainly the sense of community is massively enhanced through our social networks. Now, if only I could get that to happen in the day job!


  4. Hmm I think the BBC Olympics website is pants in the main. It is generally 12 to 24 hours out of date except for UK headlines and only chooses to cover the high sports like Athletics. An example of this is Dressage and Show Jumping pages were 24 hours out of date with no reporting that Charlotte Dujardin was in the No 1 position and the other Brits in a great position after the qualifiers. In fact as the news on their site was old it suggested the Germans were dominating. The Show Jumping site was April reports and did not even have the latest team in their report, reporting on Tim Stockdale who failed to make the team. On the other hand the London Olympics 2012 website is outstanding with even live reporting of the Show Jumping Qualifier on Saturday, giving the order and reporting live on their scores in an innovative way which I enjoyed. So thumbs down for the beeb in these two categories from me. I do not like the current running of the BBC compared to your time Euan, it has got very biased and reports what it wants without a balanced view. Sorry, but I disagree with your comments on the beeb!


  5. The post wasn't about the BBC Bob. I only included reference to the TV output as it has been very comprehensive and without it those without tickets would still not be able to take part in the cultural experience.For the record I never visit BBC Online and never have!


  6. Building culture is also building food culture. As ever, no need to decry food tweets they have greater utility than you can imagine!


  7. I was on a cross country flight in the US earlier this week and we had seat back TVs and I was watching Olympics for the first time this year. The common bond through that shared experience was really something. It went beyond just just rooting for the home team, although it was a good night for the US, but watching another person dare to not only do their best, but to break a world record. I've seen more cross-national hugs and celebration between atheletes, but also between the rest of us. I've seen this reaching out to share and celebrate the moment in person, but also online. There really is something special having a shared community space where we can all see and share the joy, frustration, and jubilation of us as a human race. A celebration beyond country flag and the usual "us versus them". We have a lot to understand and get right to keep us going on our tiny island home of earth. These Olympics along with the social knitting of our digital world wrapping network have give a vision of a unity and hope we can do this.Thanks for writing this Euan! It sparked something that I have been seeing and wanting to validate with others and get share as well.


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