Olympic Fans Transfixed by Twitter

Sarah Orbuch, Sports Editor

Every two years, for two weeks, the world is abuzz with Olympic fever. But how much of this excitement is actually for the athletic competitions? Olympic athletes train for many years, putting their bodies through workouts most people would never dare to try, then catapult themselves through the air or slalom down a mountain for a mere two minutes.

One small misstep or landing can cost athletes a medal or their career. Before Twitter feeds and instant replay, people would sit, transfixed by their televisions, watching the most talented athletes in the world do what they do best: compete.

But the days of huddling around the TV are over. The Olympics are now less about the athletes and their accomplishments and more about social media. This decreased focus on athletics is particularly evident this year.

By early February, the world was anxious to see what would happen in Russia. People were excited to find that Sochi was not ready for the Olympics. In the first 24 hours after reporters arrived, over 26,000 tweets were sent using the hashtag #SochiProblems. These tweets included pictures of unfinished hotels with cable wires in the shower, light fixtures on the floor, combined bathrooms and dirty tap water. Before the opening ceremonies began, the #SochiProblems Twitter feed had more followers than the official #2014Sochi feed.

Walking around Oberlin, I have heard more conversations about the #SochiProblems Twitter feed than about the actual athletic events. In Stevie the other day, I overheard someone say, “Wouldn’t it be great if the United States didn’t win a single medal this year?” despite the fact that the American athletes have won twelve medals already. While the athletes continue to sacrifice their bodies for their countries, reporters and fans are distracted.

Team USA has recorded several impressive victories in the first few days of the Olympics. The women’s hockey team had an impressive 9–0 victory over Switzerland. Jamie Anderson, a female snowboarder, was awarded gold in slopestyle, as was male snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg. Erin Hamlin became the first American, male or female, to earn a medal in the individual luge.

On Thursday the U.S. trio of Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy and Nicholas Goepper swept the podium in men’s freestyle skiing slopestyle, earning gold, silver and bronze respectively. This historic win flooded Twitter and many pictures were posted on Instagram. But how many of these social media fanatics actually watched the event?

Russian skating legend Yevgeny Plushenko pulled out of the men’s short program on Thursday. Plushenko, now 31, began his career when he was 13 years old at the Russian National skating competition. Over his 18 year career, Plushenko was a 2002 Olympic silver medalist, 2006 gold medalist, 2010 silver medalist and 2014 team gold medalist. Russia expected him to continue his historic career and bring home gold once again. Needless to say, the Russians are disappointed, just check Twitter.

Norway, the all-time winter Olympic medal leader, currently leads the medal standings, buoyed by three gold medals in cross country skiing. The Russians are behind the U.S. after earning a gold medal in team figure skating. These winter athletes are truly incredible to watch.

Because of the increased media presence, the days of sitting with your eyes glued to the television are ending. While Sochi may not be the best location for the Winter Olympics, the Olympics are happening there regardless. The athletes are pouring all their energy into their two-minute skating performances and their 60-minute hockey games. Next time you refresh your Twitter feed, instead of going to #SochiProblems, go to #2014Sochi. Better yet, go to nbcolympics.com. Take a look at what the athletes have been doing. You may find yourself staring at your computer for the right reasons.