I generally try to stay away from saying the ‘O’ word as much as I can, mostly in fear that I will preemptively overkill what is guaranteed to be the most saturated subject in my life for the next 6 to 9 months. But I had to comment on what we are likely going to see this Olympic round that will be vastly different than Athens ’04 or Sydney ’00.
Media is playing a whole new ballgame this time around folks. I don’t know if people (the Olympic committee, the Chinese government, passive on-lookers like you & me) truly realize how media’s growth from ’04 to ’08 will change the way we experience the Olympics from here on forward.
Household names like Facebook, Myspace, Youtube, Twitter, and the big one – blogs – were non-existent or in their infancy during Athens ’04. How many people walking into the Beijing Olympic village this year will have cameras in their cellphones ready to record anything out of the ordinary? And I am not just talking about scandals or infractions on Human Rights or political protests; I’m talking about pictures and videos of athlete’s ‘off camera’ reactions before/after their competition, or fans’ antics. There are more media recorders going in, and more media outlets coming out. Beijing ’08 is in for a totally new experience.
Recent events remind me more and more that we’re going to be seeing a whole new side of the Olympics. January’s Olympic scandal during an Olympic – CCTV (China’s National TV Broadcaster) press conference kicked of the new year with a viral bang. The press conference was interrupted by the wife of the Olympic/CCTV announcer coming on camera and telling everyone her husband was a cheater and that China’s culture was all backwards. You can read an article about it here or try to watch the actual video (caught on someone’s cellphone camera) here. Unfortunately for everyone in China who’s late in watching this video, its all been blocked by that great firewall of China, although I’m sure if you did a little more digging you’d find it somewhere.
Then, just as things were starting to settle down, the Edison Chen scandal hit just before Chinese New Year in late January. Edison, a famous HK movie star had sent his laptop in for repairs, and when the technicians were rummaging inside Edison’s hard drive, they found a treasure trove of pictures and home videos of Edison with the many, many, many celebrity women that he has been with. These pictures and videos of course were leaked everywhere on the internet for all to see. The aftermath continues to today, with Edison announcing his ‘retirement’ from the film business. You can read about it here or here or here or here. After thinking about it, I have decided not to put links directly to the pictures of videos on my blog, but they really aren’t that hard to find.
I digress. But maybe that’s kind of the point. In 2 months we’ve seen two of the biggest scandals in the Asia Pacific region, and both were captured, and perpetuated by new media. This will be the first time the Olympics will be exposed to this type of coverage. What does that mean, and is everyone prepared for it? Everyone used to be glued to their TV sets watching the medal counts and coverage from highly editorialized broadcasters. Will that be the same, this time around? Four years forward has meant a lifetime of change for Olympic media coverage.