"Dad, where were you when Jess Ennis won gold at London 2012?"

"I remember it like it was yesterday, son. I was in the queue at the butchers, checking Facebook on my phone, and there it was… history in the making."

It may not be most people's perfect idea of sporting theatre - but when fans look back on the coming weeks, one thing many will remember is how London 2012 was the first 'social media' games.

Just look at the numbers. Four years ago, during the Beijing Games, there were just 100 million people on Facebook. Now, the network has rocketed past 900 million.

On Twitter, a similar story - six million users were on the service in 2008. Now, over 600 million have signed up.

Among them, many brilliant athletes, including some sporting veterans.

"Dad, where were you when Jess Ennis won gold at London 2012?"

"I remember it like it was yesterday, son. I was in the queue at the butchers, checking Facebook on my phone, and there it was… history in the making."

It may not be most people's perfect idea of sporting theatre - but when fans look back on the coming weeks, one thing many will remember is how London 2012 was the first 'social media' games.

Just look at the numbers. Four years ago, during the Beijing Games, there were just 100 million people on Facebook. Now, the network has rocketed past 900 million.

On Twitter, a similar story - six million users were on the service in 2008. Now, over 600 million have signed up.

Among them, many brilliant athletes, including some sporting veterans.

"I've been on it for just a couple of weeks now," said Sir Clive Woodward, director of sport for TeamGB, about his new Twitter account.

"I use it to publicise things - it gets out immediately, you don't have to wait until tomorrow's newspapers."

At the last count, according to the IOC, there were 2,014 verified Olympians, both past and present, using social networks - all poised to offer their views and reactions.

Sporting heroes

So where will they all be?

On Facebook, a specially created Olympics portal has been launched. This includes timeline profiles of some of the biggest stars. You can, for example, follow diver Tom Daley's life and career from the present day back to his birth.

"The investment of communicating their story stays with them forever," said Joanna Shields, Facebook's boss for Europe.

On Twitter, official accounts for London 2012, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), individual sports and athletes will keep supporters up to date.

"Never before have fans had such direct access to their sporting heroes," said Lewis Wiltshire, head of sport for Twitter UK.

"Athletes on Twitter answer questions, respond to 'good luck' wishes, talk to fellow stars, and share behind-the-scenes perspectives that people otherwise wouldn't have access to."

The most comprehensive effort comes via the IOC itself in the form of its Olympic Athletes' Hub.

It offers a searchable directory of every verified Olympian on social media. Profile pages collate their activity across various networks, meaning every update - be it on Facebook, Twitter, or, soon, Google Plus - can be tracked in one place.

When fans interact with sports stars through the site they can receive bonus content, such as an instructional rowing video from Matthew Pinsent.

The IOC is also active on Instagram, Foursquare and Tumblr.

Out of line

But allowing athletes to express themselves to such a large audience may not always be a good thing.

"It's not a perfect world," admits Sir Clive.

"TeamGB is over a thousand people. It's not only athletes, you've got coaches and support staff. The chances of somebody saying something that's a bit out of line is probably pretty high.

"But we're trying our best to educate. That's all you can do - you can either shut the door and pretend it's not there and keep your fingers crossed, or you can really go down the education route."

TeamGB has produced an instructional video for athletes - fronted by Dame Kelly Holmes - warning about the risks "loose" tweeting could have on their reputations.

"One of my favourite sayings when speaking to athletes is 'how do you want to be remembered?'" Sir Clive added.

"They're role models 24-7, and they're role models when they're on Twitter."

Athletes will also need to be mindful of strict guidelines from the IOC about what they can and can't post - particularly when it comes to videos and images from within Olympic venues.

Raw emotion

Momentary lapses in common sense aside, social media is set to allow an unprecedented glimpse into the highs and lows of being Olympian.

One athlete who has charted a full range of emotions on the service is British sprinter Jeanette Kwakye. Her Olympic dream was shattered by an Achilles injury. It was a personal journey shared by her many Twitter followers.

"My timeline was full of my teammates who had made the team," she remembered.

"I put a statement out there saying 'this is exactly how I feel'. It was very raw, it was very up to the minute, it just gave people an insight to see there were two sides of the story.

With the opening ceremony just over a week away, Ms Kwakye said she would use social networks to get behind the athletes - and she urged other TeamGB fans to do the same.

"Although some athletes will opt not to tweet during the games, I'm sure a lot of them will be reading tweets that come their way. So it will be so nice to get a hashtag culture of support."

At Facebook, a different, altogether cheekier hope - the possibility that athletes will turn to the network to get to know each other and even end up changing their relationship status.

"That would certainly make it really interesting!" Facebook's Ms Shields said.

"Wouldn't that be cool? I don't know... I think their coaches would probably say 'behave yourself'."

By Dave Lee Technology reporter, BBC News

Source: www.bbc.co.uk

A London-based consultancy says the Olympics is now the world's second-most valuable brand.

In a study that does much to explain why multinationals vie to sponsor London 2012 and other events under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Brand Finance Plc values the Olympic brand – at £30.8 billion ($48.1 billion/€39.2 billion) – second only to Apple, the United States technology company guided for so long by the late Steve Jobs.

Apple's lead is a commanding one, with its brand valued at £44.6 billion ($69.7 billion/€56.7 billion).

This, in turn, may help to explain why Apple is not an Olympic sponsor; it simply does not need to be.

Nonetheless, Brand Finance says the Olympic brand has enjoyed an 87 per cent increase in value since the Beijing Games four years ago.

"There is no doubt that the Olympics 'Brand' is a formidable revenue generator and has huge value," said David Haigh, Brand Finance's chief executive.

Three IOC sponsors – Samsung, GE and Coca-Cola – are reckoned to feature in the top 10 global brands – with each valued at between $30 billion (£19 billion/€24 billion) and $40 billion (£26 billion/€33 billion).

McDonald's weighs in at $22.2 billion (£14.2 billion/€18.1 billion), with the brands of other IOC sponsors valued at below $10 billion (£6 billion/€8 billion).

Household products group Procter & Gamble, perhaps surprisingly, is rated the least valuable brand among the IOC's so-called TOP sponsors, at $1.42 billion (£909 million/€1.16 billion).

The cumulative value of individual P&G product brands, however, is far more substantial.

For example, Olay is rated the world's most valuable beauty brand at $11.8 billion (£7.6 billion/€9.6 billion).

With P&G now seemingly intent on using its own brand more prominently, it seems likely that it will experience what one specialist described as a "significant increase" in brand value next year.

-David Owen

Source: www.insidethegames.biz

World record holder Usain Bolt arrived at the Jamaican Olympic team's Birmingham training base on Tuesday for his final Games preparations.

The triple Olympic gold medallist arrived as part of the 50-strong Jamaican squad who will be training at the University of Birmingham during the Olympics. The five-time world champion stopped to meet with fans who asked for autographs and photos as he headed to the University’s Monroe Sports Centre.

Gary Peal, Training Camp Coordinator on behalf of Birmingham City Council, said: "I can confirm that we've got about 90 per cent of the team safely accredited and relaxing into their environment for the next 10 days."

The team have chosen a secluded approach to their Games preparations and will not allow the public to watch them train apart from a selected group of schoolchildren and members of athletics clubs who have been invited to a session on July 25.

The university has had to deal with a variety of requests from the Jamaican team such as providing a Jamaican menu and supplying supersized beds for 6ft 5 ins Bolt and his other tall team-mates.

Zena Wooldridge, director of sport at the university, said: “It’s tremendously exciting news that the world’s fastest man will prepare for the Olympics in Birmingham.

“It confirms Birmingham’s status as a great sporting city, and the university’s desire to support that.

“Whilst the university has produced several home-grown Olympic athletes in recent years, it’s a thrill to have a team with the global pedigree of Jamaica on campus.”

As Bolt was settling into life in Birmingham his training partner Yohan Blake was declaring his dominance on the track in Italy.

Twenty-one-year-old Blake, who took advantage of Bolt’s false start elimination at the World Championships last year to take the crown, stormed to victory in 9.85 seconds in Lucerne.

The rivalry between the Jamaicans was increased last month when Blake beat Bolt in both the 100m and 200m at their national trials. Following his defeat at the trials Bolt also withdrew from the Diamond League meet in Monaco with an injury concern which raised doubts as to whether he was going to be able to repeat his 2008 Olympic success.

Bolt now insists he is fit and ready to defend his titles and despite a couple of slower runs he still has three of the five fastest 100m times in the world this year.

By Sophia Heath

www.telegraph.co.uk

Lights, camera, action ... Cut!

Not the words director Danny Boyle was hoping to shout just days before the opening ceremony of the London Olympics.

But the Oscar-winning director of "Slumdog Millionaire" has been forced to trim parts of the ceremony - including removal of a stunt bike sequence - to make sure the show finishes on time and spectators can get home before public transportation shuts down.

London organizers said Boyle was "tightening" the ceremony by up to 30 minutes to ensure the show, scheduled for three hours, concludes between midnight and 12:30 a.m.

"This is like any other piece of film you would make, things end up on the cutting room floor," London organizing committee spokeswoman Jackie Brock-Doyle said.

The ceremony, with a cast and crew of 10,000, is set for July 27 in the 80,000-capacity stadium in east London and be watched by a global television audience expected at 1 billion.

Brock-Doyle said a 3-4 minute sequence featuring stunt bikes has been deleted from the show but the riders will be paid and credited anyway.

Boyle is making other changes, too, to keep within the time frame.

"It has been an evolution," she said. "It was longer 10 days ago than it was a week ago and was longer a week ago than it is now. It is a matter of tightening. It's not cutting big chunks."

Reports in British newspapers said Boyle was angry at having to make the cuts, but Brock-Doyle said he was used to making films or shows fit a time schedule.

"He's an award-winning filmmaker," she said. "Things end up on the cutting-room floor. I think he understands that."

Boyle's ceremony, called "Isles of Wonder," is inspired by William Shakespeare's "The Tempest." He has revealed that the opening sequence will feature an idyllic British countryside setting complete with live farm animals, including 70 sheep, 12 horses, 10 chickens and nine geese. Former Beatle Paul McCartney has said he will perform the closing act.

The International Olympic Committee has pressed London organizers to make sure the show - which starts at 9 p.m. - doesn't overrun so that athletes can get to bed at a reasonable hour. Many of the athletes will be able to walk back to their housing, located adjacent to the Olympic Park, after the ceremony.

"We've always said it's a three-hour show, but it could end at 12:30," Brock-Doyle said.

Organisers are under pressure to make sure spectators can get home on public transportation after the ceremony. The Underground and buses will run until 2:30 a.m. during the games - an hour later than usual.

Brock-Doyle denied the ceremony cuts were prompted by the failure of private security firm G4S to provide the required number of security personnel for the Olympics, a blunder which forced the British government to call up 3,500 extra troops.

"This has absolutely nothing to do with security," Brock-Doyle said.

The longest part of the ceremony involves the march of athletes into the stadium. Several thousand athletes from 204 national Olympic committees will be taking part.

"The bit no one ever knows is really how long the athletes parade will be," Brock-Doyle said. "No one actually knows until the day how many athletes are going to come out. We're using all the tricks of the trade to get people to move fast."

The weather could also be a factor.

"If it's pouring with rain, some athletes won't turn up," she said.

- AP

Source: www.nzherald.co.nz

The founding father of the 2012 Olympics helped Tony Blair schmooze London its ticket to host the Games and saw the war in Iraq nearly bring it all down in flames.

Sir Craig Reedie recounts the phone call like it was yesterday. It took place in May 2003, less than two months after bombs had begun falling on Baghdad and George W Bush and Tony Blair set about de-throning Saddam Hussein.

On the other end of the line was Tessa Jowell, Britain's then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and what she told Reedie was not exactly what he wanted to hear. Jowell was tasked with securing cabinet approval for a London entry in the 2012 Olympic Games race but with the nation's focus squarely on combat in the Gulf, she was struggling to get the topic on the agenda for the following day's cabinet meeting. By this time the coalition forces had taken the Iraqi capital - Saddam was not yet captured - but debate was already raging about the legitimacy of the invasion and its political and geopolitical implications.

Amidst that backdrop Reedie, the chairman of the British Olympic Association (BOA), had reached the breaking point in the already long and hard-fought haul to get a government-backed Olympic bid up and running. Rivals such as Paris, Madrid, New York and Moscow were already well and truly committed to the battle for the 2012 hosting rights and with six months until the first paperwork from bidding cities was due to be filed with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) - and only two years until a decision would be made - Reedie felt too much time had already been lost.

"The night before the cabinet meeting that approved the bid, Tessa Jowell told me 'I'm not sure it will get done tomorrow, it's quite a big agenda'. And I said 'Well, I'm sorry Tessa, how long?"' Reedie tells Fairfax.

"She said: 'Well, next week is a holiday, it might take another month'. I said 'This is not in any way a threat, but if you can't do it tomorrow I'm going to have to pull the plug because we simply will not have enough time'."

While London's mayor Ken Livingstone had already signed on, the war in Iraq was at the point of steering a London bid fatally off course. "You remember this was the major political issue of the time," Reedie says. "To turn away from the political effects of that and deal with something relatively modest like an Olympic bid involved a little bit of encouragement from the appropriate government department. But Tessa was terrific."

I meet Reedie in the foyer of the East India Club, a 160-year-old members-only and gentlemen-only club at St James's Square, a stone's throw from Pall Mall, Piccadilly and the rest of the Monopoly board. Wellington, I'm told, had his celebrated Waterloo Dispatch presented to the Prince Regent - later to become George IV - in this very house. A magnet for the aristocratic and the elite ever since, London's history is embedded on its walls and in its furniture.

Reedie, however, is not here to sip whisky and soak up the social status. In the hours before we sit down in the club's Rugby Room, the 71-year-old Scot has been with Sebastian Coe, the London 2012 chairman, having a final tour of the Olympic Park before the Games commence on July 27. It was an emotional occasion, he admits.

"I first saw the place on a wet November afternoon pissing with rain in a disused greyhound stadium at Hackney," Reedie says. "I looked around and thought 'Gee, you really need some imagination to work out how this is going to work'.

"We stopped and had a couple of photographs from the driver. We both know how this was done - we both know the effort that's gone into it. It was a good moment."

A former international badminton player and administrator Reedie is the original visionary behind the Olympics' return to London for the first time since 1948. He has the knighthood to show for it. A survivor of failed bids with Manchester (twice) and Birmingham it was he, as the BOA chairman, that conceived the idea of another London Games inside the organisation's modest former office at Wandsworth.

The starting line for the London Olympics can be traced right back to January 1994 - more than 11 years before the city would be granted hosting rights - when Reedie called a meeting during the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer to research why Britain's regional cities could not mount successful bids. It would not be long before he had an answer. Juan Antonio Samaranch, the IOC president who had famously announced the good news to Sydney in 1993, told him squarely that they were only interested in London. "At the time when we were asking I don't think he said it publicly," says Reedie, who had convinced Samaranch to introduce badminton, thus winning over the Far East, to the Olympics in 1992. "But he certainly said it to me."

Unlike those earlier defeated British bids London's drive to win the Olympics was given life by the national Olympic committee, not the city itself. In its earliest days, in the late nineties, that amounted to three men: Reedie, the BOA chief executive Simon Clegg - an ex-paratrooper who now runs Ipswich Town football club - and a young media liaison officer named Philip Pope, who is now public affairs manager with Cricket Australia.

In 1997 Reedie hired a 31-year-old hockey goalkeeper called David Luckes to pen a report into the feasibility of a London Games, paying him expenses rather than wages because the BOA could not afford them and setting him up with a makeshift desk in a corridor because there was no office for him.

Following Britain's disastrous showing in Atlanta the year before - rowers Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent had won their only gold medal - the Olympics was not exactly in vogue.

"Having decided we would bid again, one of the big issues was how we improve British sport," Reedie recalls. "The first really significant bit of assistance was we managed to change the lottery distribution rules. The lottery money used to go only to capital projects and after Atlanta it went to revenue projects as well so you could actually pay athletes as opposed to building swimming pools."

In 2000 Britain won 11 gold, and 28 medals in total, with the telecast of those images on the BBC a public-relations dream for the Reedie team's burgeoning bid. "Along came all these wonderfully articulate and nice people winning Olympic medals in sunshine and the joys of Sydney," he says. "That was a really good story. It helped enormously."

As Reedie led IOC voting members up to Blair's suite at the Stamford Hotel in Singapore, he hardly had time to digest the gravity of the meetings that he had set up and were about to take place. Along with bid chairman Lord Coe and chief executive Keith Mills, Reedie and the Prime Minister had been the central players in the arduous and delicate lobbying process that was reaching its climax.

As IOC members gathered at the nearby Raffles Hotel for the vote in July 2005, and with Paris favourite to win the 2012 Games, Reedie orchestrated a last-minute charm offensive by the master schmoozer Blair and his wife Cherie, even handing the Prime Minister specific briefing notes as he brought each member to his room.

"We didn't have all that much time to be tense, we had an awful lot to do," says Reedie, who will stand for the IOC vice-presidency next week. "We were lucky in that the Prime Minister gave us about two-and-a-half days. We selected a number of members to have private meetings with him.

"He was terrific. That played strongly to Blair's skills. He was a wonderful communicator. He was one of those politicians that when he was talking to you for that 30 seconds or two minutes you were the only person in the universe."

Blair had to leave Singapore before the day of the vote, but Reedie was front and centre in London's presentation, even speaking the Olympics' other official language, French, for a portion of his speech.

The lips of Jacques Rogge, the IOC president, delivered the victory he had been waiting more than a decade to revel in, but for Reedie, the real celebration is about to start. You will probably find him at the badminton.

-Chris Barrett

www.smh.com.au

The BBC has won the rights to broadcast the Olympic Games up to the 2020 Olympics.

The new BBC deal – covering television, radio and digital rights for Sochi 2014, Rio 2016, Pyeongchang 2018 as well as the yet-to-be-decided host of the 2020 Games – will continue an Olympic broadcast arrangement that has been unbroken since Rome 1960.

But the BBC had to fend off rivals who had been in serious discussions with the International Olympic Committee to test the UK Government's protected list of sporting events, which includes all of the Olympic Games.

It is understood Sky had considered buying all of the rights and then selling off a free-to-air component to the BBC, or alternatively setting up a similar channel themselves, to specifically distribute a small amount of the 5,500 hours of Olympic coverage to circumvent the Government's rules.

However the IOC has been swayed by the BBC's long-standing commitment to the Games, its support of the sports outside Olympic periods, and its extensive free of charge penetration in to the UK audience.

The BBC will broadcast the London Olympics across 24 platforms – television and internet as well as radio.

Last month the IOC President Jacques Rogge told Telegraph Sport: “What we look for is the guarantee of the coverage and the quality.”

The BBC is understood to have paid much more than the £60 million it paid for the London Olympic rights, but compared to other rights fees the IOC has extracted around the world, the fee is considered relatively light, by sources familiar with the negotiations.

The BBC deal is the last major broadcast market the IOC had to complete and comes just weeks after the Premier League rights for the next three years were sold to Sky and BT for a record £3.2 billion.

The IOC has previously completed 2014-16 Olympic deals with France for £80 million, Germany for £120 million, Spain for £66 million and Italy for £141 million.

It has raised £2.32 billion across the globe for the next Olympic period, already up on the total raised for the London Games of £2.515 billion.

Mark Thompson, BBC director general, said: "I'm delighted that the Olympic Games will continue to be broadcast exclusively on the BBC into the 2020s. It's terrific news in the days before BBC Sport begins to cover the London 2012 Games and a tribute to the enduring partnership between the BBC and the Olympic movement."

Dominic Coles, chief operating officer 2012 Olympics, who negotiated the deal, said: "It's vital that big national and international events like the Olympic Games remain free-to-air where they can be watched by the greatest number of people.

“We're delighted to continue our long-standing partnership with the Olympics and the IOC, adding to BBC Sport's outstanding rights portfolio and firmly establishing the BBC as the home of major sporting events that unite the nation and this deal demonstrates that BBC Sport remains a force in sports broadcasting.”

By Jacquelin Magnay, Olympics Editor

Source: www.telegraph.co.uk