The Ignorant Athlete: Technology, Olympics Don't Always Mix

By Braden Becker May 04, 2012

Spoiler alert! This column won't hype the looming summer Olympiad any more than it already has been. Nor will it highlight a new digital service by which the games are to be experienced the best way yet.

But it's in no less interest of the TMC community, as to the rest of the high-tech world, to consider – if for just a few minutes – a different vantage point from which we might view a world of athletics stuck in a zoo of technology that admittedly gets more impressive by the minute.

Did I say "stuck"? Whoops….

The Truth

Let's just say it – the best of today's technology can also be the bane of many of our Olympians' focus.

First of all, no one should deny the role social media plays in the progress of modern marketing departments, or even to individuals' duties to on-the-fly communication either. It is absolutely the lifeblood of our daily routines.

But 2012's London-based event boasts athletes surrounded by a medium of information that throws so much in their faces; it's hard not to think some of it they'd rather not see. For this reason, this summer's Olympics are especially relevant to the reputation virtual and real-time information carries in the eyes of a big chunk of its demographic.

This column is dedicated to those people.

The Precedent

Ryan Hall is an American marathoner who qualified for the Olympic marathon back in January, and embraces this very mindset, in spite – or perhaps because of – his image as a worldwide favorite.

"I'm not one to get online and follow people [on Twitter] and see what [my competitors] have done," he told Flotrack, a track & field hub, earlier this year. "I just like to be out of it, know what I need to do and just be focused on that."

But that's tough to do these days. Those who don't have a Twitter account may see feeds through Facebook, and those without Facebook can just as easily stumble across it on most sites which either embed Facebook comment threads directly or facilitate ad space for the thousands of Olympics campaigns live today.

The Difference

There's obviously a difference, however, between living in the woods and exercising a certain degree of moderation in preparation for an event that warrants a slightly more primitive atmosphere.

Swimmer Michael Phelps was interviewed at the '08 Beijing Games enough times to turn it into a drinking game, and managed to hang gold around his neck over four times. Contemporary media coverage, having been in variable existence for way longer than social media, is surely the line between technological spaces that aren't harmful to an athlete's focus, and those that are.

The Balance

What do we do? Don't give up tweeting for the sake of your favorite Olympian. It's a matter of consistently grappling with how we apply ourselves to our devices. What interests your company may not nourish the life of your athletic counterpart, but it's an awareness of that balance, alone, that keeps the next new thing from tipping the scale too heavily to any one side.

In the end, never be afraid to try something new. Hall, Phelps and the rest of Team USA will be just fine. After all, what's sport without keeping athletes on their toes?

Edited by Carrie Schmelkin
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