17 Aug 2016

Rio pits Sky against social media

11:59 am on 17 August 2016

By Jamie Wall*

Opinion - With Olympic events happening in the middle of the night, social media has been the best way to keep up with the Games, says Jamie Wall.

New Zealand flag bearers Blair Tuke and Peter Burling take a selfie during the opening ceremony at Maracana Stadium.

Blair Tuke and Peter Burling take a selfie during the Olympics opening ceremony in Rio. Photo: John Cowpland / www.photosport.nz

How are you watching the Olympics these days?

Wake up, check phone. Get dressed, check phone. Sit on public transport, check phone. Drive in car, check phone (if naughty). Get to work, check social media on company computer.

Given this is the daily morning routine of most New Zealanders, it's safe to say we're pretty much all up with the play of what's happened in the world overnight before we've even brushed our teeth.

Of course, a great deal of the Olympics has happened in the early hours of the morning. There'll be some hardcore fans who are staying up to watch, but presumably a great deal of us are getting our sports news primarily from Facebook posts and tweets.

Rio is a long way away - a 15-hour time difference, in fact. What hasn't happened while we're asleep most likely plays out when we're at work or school. New Zealand's gold medals have all been won in the middle of the night so far, with the only live, viewer-friendly event being Valerie Adams' silver medal win on Saturday afternoon.

The time difference is not the only barrier to watching our team, either: Sky TV owns the rights to all coverage, so if you don't have a subscription, it's a bit of a mission to see the Games at all. Even if you do subscribe to Sky, watching live coverage can be problematic because their online streaming service sometimes seems as reliable as whatever they're using to clean the Olympic diving pool - It failed during the women's rugby sevens gold medal match against Australia. So unless their workplace had Sky installed on the TV, most people missed the game.

Like everything these days, the first reaction to a broadcast disaster like that is to go on social media to find out what's happening (closely followed by a rage-filled vent at the streaming disaster). It isn't difficult at all to follow a sports match through a Twitter feed, sometimes it's even more instant than satellite-delayed coverage. The commentary can be far more entertaining too.

Social media offers forums to not only discuss what's going on, but watch (illegally) as well. The ability to live pause coverage means that if you want to see a crucial moment, you'll be able to see it more or less straight away, thanks to someone recording and uploading it using their phone. Usain Bolt was good enough to make his 100m gold medal winning performance short enough to be captured and shared as a Snapchat video.

Given that people's voracious appetites for content won't allow them to wait for their fix through a standard work day, it's a safe bet that plenty of people have already seen anything of note by the time the nightly highlights packages are broadcast.

This Olympics has been a bit of a tough one - for the organisers, some of the athletes and those of us without Sky. However, if you're up with the play on social media, you won't miss out on too much of the action.

*Jamie Wall grew up in Wellington and enjoyed a stunningly mediocre rugby career in which the sole highlight was a seat on the bench for his club's premier side. He's enjoyed far more success spouting his viewpoints on the game to anyone who'll care to listen.

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