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Twitter, celebrity & controversy (Olympics edition)

There’s no question about it: Twitter is having an enormous effect on the Olympic games. As social media trends grow, Twitter is generating an unprecedented level of interest in the competition and with that comes a large amount of controversy.

Talk of the London 2012 Olympic Games was expected to take over Twitter, and its community of 140 million active users worldwide didn’t disappoint. During the opening ceremony, Twitter saw more tweets in a single day than it saw during the whole duration of the Beijing 2008 Olympics. This shows how the social networking site has grown and become a huge power in modern society. In 2008, the average number of tweets stood at around 300,000 per day. That number has grown dramatically ever since, and on Friday 9.66 million mentions of the opening ceremony made on Twitter between 8.00 p.m. U.K. time through to the end of the delayed U.S. broadcast, which started more than three hours later.

On one hand the vast amount of interest in the Olympics helps to bring people together; sharing enthusiasm, games related conversation and hope – all whilst completely enthralled by the events. However there are always negatives when you talk about something that involves such a sheer number of people. In this case it is the abuse that many athletes, successful or otherwise, suffer at the hands of ignorant individuals with overzealous index fingers. I’m sure much is taken with a pinch of salt, but some malicious comments can really cause major problems for some impulsive athletes.

In the past few days we have seen evidence of this in the case of British diver Tom Daley. After Tom unfortunately missed out on a medal with his synchronised diving partner Peter Waterfield he received numerous malevolent tweets, particularly from one ignorant adolescent who has since been remanded in custody.

The first tweet told Daley that he let his dad down after failing to finish in the medal positions in the synchonised dive. Later, the tweeter threatened to drown Daley.

Daley’s father died of brain cancer a year ago and the 18-year-old Olympian had hoped to win a medal “for myself and my dad.” But he finished fourth on Monday, out of medal contention, in the 10-meter synchronized platform competition with teammate Pete Waterfield.

Daley tweeted a message complaining about some of the tweets sent to him by “idiots.” He said the nasty tweet about his father came after he had been “giving it my all” in the bid for a medal. Later,  another tweet to Daley read: “i’m going to find you and i’m going to drown you in the pool you cocky twat your a nobody people like you make me sick”. The tweets full of choice language, just incase the incorrect use of ‘your’ didn’t rile you enough.

Duncan Goodhew, a gold and bronze medallist in swimming at the Moscow Olympics in 1980, told ITV’s Daybreak: “It is appalling that people behave that way. Becky Adlington, in fact, suffered probably far worse abuse, as well, if you remember the kerfuffle some years ago.

“I suppose that social media in one sense is fantastic, but turned the wrong way round it is very, very personal and it destroys people’s lives. So I think people should be much more careful about what they say.”

Rob Daley, who was instrumental in helping his son become one of the world’s top divers, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2006. He had 80% of a fist-sized tumour removed that year and had been in remission until a routine health check in 2010 discovered a tumour had returned. Speaking before the Olympics, Daley said his father had given him the inspiration to compete in the Games. Tom said: “I’m doing it for myself and my dad. It was both our dreams from a very young age. I always wanted to do it and Dad was so supportive of everything.”

With their indiviudal events still to come, they know what they’ll need to do in order to get amongst the medals: “We know exactly what we need to do. By the individual event, we should be ready to go.”

Follow Tom on Twitter: @TomDaley1994


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