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This article was published on July 28, 2012

Here are 25+ ways to watch and keep track of the London Olympics like a digital champion

Here are 25+ ways to watch and keep track of the London Olympics like a digital champion
Jamillah Knowles
Story by

Jamillah Knowles

Jamillah is the UK Editor for The Next Web. She's based in London. You can hear her on BBC Radio 5Live's Outriders. Follow on Twitter @jemi Jamillah is the UK Editor for The Next Web. She's based in London. You can hear her on BBC Radio 5Live's Outriders. Follow on Twitter @jemimah_knight or drop a line to [email protected]

You may have noticed that the Olympic opening ceremony took place last night in London. As expected, social channels flooded with a mix of pride, sarcasm, critics and patriots.

The ceremonies are designed to be a showcase for the host country and an inspiration for athletes and audiences. It’s not so surprising that a few cynics watching got to the end of the show and found that they had a new interest in the games.

So, if you caught the fever after last night’s song and dance, we have a few ways in which you can increase Olympic spirit and get into the games digitally.

Official offerings

The IOC has been working hard on its digital presence as usual. Not only is there the official website but but the organisation has developed mobile applications for those who can’t get their fix from mainstream media alone.

There are three apps available from the official site. The ‘Join In’ application encourages users to follow events, visit specific locations and enjoy official photos and updates.

The location-based information covers sports as well as cultural and arts events. So in London, as well as the competition, it shows exhibitions, places to eat, museums and many other heritage sites to visit. Surprisingly, there’s an option called gardening for the games for the green-fingered too.

There is so much data within this app, that it needs to update information packs from time to time. So it’s probably best to download these over WiFi before you head out and about.

Join In is available for free as well as a premium version offering more information for iOS, Blackberry and Android users.

There is also an official results app where users can track team and athlete performances and a game for iOS and Android in which users can compete in 9 events including swimming and archery.

The official Olympic presence has expanded this year, naturally you can add Twitter and Facebook feeds to your usual social flow but there are specific sites for niche topics too.

On Tumblr there is an official Olympic fashion blog. (Yes, really). It’s not such a surprise when you consider that getting professional sportswear right is a technical art. You can also check out some days gone by with historical uniforms and famous outfits.

Off the IOC site

Outside of the official digital jamboree, there is a sea of unofficial apps, brand tie-ins and information services.

One thing that is unfortunately notable is that there are far fewer examples of great independent apps following the Paralympic Games which run along side the regular Olympic events. There are one or two, but nowhere near as many as there are for the games in general.

For fans of wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball and the host of other paralympic events, the coverage appears to be more comprehensive through the official Olympic applications.

If you’re more one for ‘sofalympics’ you can still take part in a few digital ‘sports’. [email protected] simulates the experience of running the Olympic marathon course around the capital. The circular route takes in the starting line on The Mall and includes sites like Trafalgar Square, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Guildhall, Tower Bridge, and Big Ben.

At specific venues a 360° view can be taken in and pictures can be taken within the app to share on social networks. A marathon even the TNW team can manage without breaking a sweat.

Little Olympians who might be too young for the official Olympic material might like try the Peppa Pig Sports Day app. Kids can try long jump and running with their favourite characters from the cartoon on TV.

The Guardian has created a Web app that is close to the hearts of anyone who bashed two buttons on a keyboard for Olympic glory at home. Could you be a medallist? is a sweet 8-bit presentation where the computer games of the past can be re-lived. Test your own times in 100m, 10km, 100m freestyle swim and bicycle road races.

Mainstream coverage

Mainstream media is of course all over Olympic coverage. Deals have been brokered to stream every event to TV or online and each pageant, angle, street party, sporting gaffe and oh yes, the competition. The BBC is experimenting with live streaming through its BBC Sport facebook app, Twitter’s Olympics hub is working in partnership with Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversalGoogle has its own Olympic hub and Facebook too has a hub in launched in conjunction witht he IOC.

There are of course specially designed Olympic news apps from BBC Sport, Reuters, AFP, NBC and other mainstream media companies, so it’s worth a check to see if your broadcaster of choice has something for your phone.

It might seem that there are too many apps to choose from when looking at just one sporting celebration. However, two-screen viewing really comes into its own when following something like the Olympics.

A quick glance at the schedule will tell you that many competitions take place at the same time on the same day, so having laptop or tablet handy means that you can indulge your Olympic tastes by watching one on TV and following another on a second screen.

Alternative media

With the development of user generated content, it’s no surprise that there are alternative views of the games and the way people choose to participate.

Blottr, the people-powered news site has created The People’s Olym-PICS (we see what they did there), a channel for users to upload images relating to the games.

In addition to picture and video galleries, the channel will have news coverage of events and will feature a modern history of the Olympics, profiles of participating athletes from the smaller, less prominent countries in the world and a final analysis on how the City has coped during the large scale summer sports spectacle.

Alternative tales are also available on a film blog from Crane.tv. Live reporting, photos and film from around London will be uploaded over the coming weeks including a gymnastics inspired fashion film, an interview with USA fencing star Tim Morehouse, a mini documentary on the Rio Artists Occupy London project and an Olympic challenge where one of the Crane.tv reporters is put through training with choreographer Aicha McKenzie.

If film is your preferred medium, it’s worth considering documentaries made about the Olympic games. Many are now available for download to mobile devices (something to pass the time if you’re queuing at the Olympic stadium maybe).

One example, ‘The Olympic Side of London’, shows the changes to East London where the Olympic park has been built and it’s currently available at the Google Play store.

If you’re really keen to learn more about the games, you could always download a book. Google Play and Apple Appstore have editions covering diverse topics from the Olympic Airspace above London, Austerity Games, comedic takes on proceedings and pocket guides for visitors.

For a very quick guide and some unusual facts that will doubtless go down well in the pub, real-time web analytics firm GoSquared has set out a neat presentation that is bound to start conversations about the Games.

Social Olympics

Naturally social media is a common topic around the Games. The debate goes on as to whether this year’s events or the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver are the first social Games.

Either way, it’s safe to say that there is increased activity on social networks and companies who monitor such things are taking advantage of the extra data and information that users generate.

Socialbakers has created a CheerMeter, that tracks and analyses Twitter buzz around sporting events. It’s free to use and shows hour-by-hour updates on which sports, athletes, nations and brands are getting the most attention.

Competitors to the main sponsors of the games will also be monitored, so it will be interesting to see if those companies are really getting their money’s worth on advertising.

UK Energy company EDF is also following tweets for sentiment. The highs and lows of the games will be tracked via the hashtag #Energy2012 (if people remember to add that instead of the more regular tags like #London2012 or #Olympics). Results will be projected onto the London Eye each night in a sort of pie-chart light show of how happy people are.

If you want to create your own specific method of following the games, you might want to take a look at the options from If This Then That (IFTTT). The digital recipe service is working with ESPN for Olympic coverage.

Users can find out what’s happening by creating triggers for specific news from the games. When your favorite country wins a medal, be the first to know with the new Olympic medal by country trigger or try the new Olympic Gold medal and world record triggers for more refined results.

Olympic London

While there has been a minor exodus with Londoners renting out their flats and getting away from the games, there are plenty of visitors entering the city to join in the fun. However, getting around London can be confusing to new visitors at the best of times, let alone when a major event is taking place.

If you are visiting for the games, there are a few additions for your mobile that might make things simpler. An Olympic city guide should help with locations for events as well finding services and places to eat.

Sorting out travel during this period is also worth some attention. Transport for London has modified its mobile offerings to include data about any delays or station closures if there is crowding or security alerts. With many events like the marathon taking place outside of the stadia, it’s going to be important to non-games fans to keep an eye on the status of travel too, otherwise getting to those meetings will become more than a chore.

If you follow the games across devices, on the web, television and radio throughout proceedings, you probably deserve a medal of your own. The influx of material, data and news will be immense and hard to escape. That said, if you’re really not a fan but still want to follow other news, you can always take a lead from the Guardian news site where you can simply switch it all off.

Image Credit: Dave Catchpole

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