Mind the gap: Games info breaks blamed on Twitter

Medal-tastic! Lizzie Armitstead, cycle road race silver medal-winner

LONDON CALLING: Could the world’s sports media boycott all references to the Olympic sponsors in protest over information access charges? And the Madtastic troubles with Twitter

While sitting in the John Rodda workroom at the MPC, the SJA website receives a note from Randall Northam. As Northam is the Treasurer of the SJA, it is something to which we pay the closest possible attention.

And Northam’s ire has been attracted by our diary item last week about LOCOG’s Del Boy-tendency of charging the media £180 so that we might access the basic sports details to cover the Games, and £1.05 for bottled water.

“I remember John Rodda sitting in the London Marathon press room when Mars, the race sponsors, had done something that they shouldn’t,” Northam notes.

“Loudly, so that the press officers could hear, John said, ‘I’ve forgotten how to spell Mars’.

“That soon put it right,” Northam said, adding a suggestion: “Olympic journalists charged £1.05 for a bottle of water should forget how to spell the name of the London Olympic sponsors, such as the fizzy drink company, or the telecoms organisation, or purveyors of fatty burgers.”

One of the “reasons” given to the SJA by LOCOG for the need to charge £180 a time to access the London Info+ system was that it paid towards the cost of providing cabled internet access across all Games venues, which would provide smooth service and uninterrupted access to information throughout the Olympics.

So guess what happened for almost an hour during the women’s cycling road race on Sunday afternoon: yep, the Info+ system crashed, prompting an embarrassed announcement throughout the MPC, and seeing scores of volunteers later scurrying around the LOCOG computers to re-boot them.

Will LOCOG be making a refund to the world’s media for their failure to provide the service which was promised?

It was Twitter wot lost it: It was a tough opening weekend for Games television coverage, with much criticism, from the commentators and from viewers, of the dearth of information from the course during the men’s cycling road race. It was, after all, in deepest darkest… Surrey.

Apparently, it was all Twitter’s fault.

According to the IOC’s briefing on Sunday, with 1 million spectators lining the route, so many were using smartphones to send messages to Twitter, it was hogging the mobile networks upon which the Olympic Broadcast Service depended for sending back data on the race times, distance check points and the gap from the breakaway group to the peloton with Mark Cavenish’s crew.

An IOC spokesman suggested that spectators watching the women’s race should only send “urgent” social media updates. So  much for the first social media Games.

“Madtastic”: BOA has a new cheerleader

The Twitter rationing has not deterred the BOA’s chief executive, Andy Hunt, from taking to social media with all the enthusiasm of a 14-year-old cheerleader.

As Charlie Sale observes in today’s Daily Mail, Hunt’s 140-character offerings (@AndyHunt_TeamGB) have included:

“This is madtastic! Totally surreal with wall to wall screaming and hollering for @TeamGB”

“Wow! You can feel the tension down here at the Mall. Go@teamGB”

This morning, after a rowing race at Eton Dorney:  “Great marker set down by TeamGB Men’s 8. Great job!”

And after the women’s cycle road race: “Girl Power! BRILLIANT”

It would never have happened in Lord Burghley’s day. The Marquis would have had a flunky to Tweet for him…

“I like the opening titles and the music, and presentation has been friendly and informative, if a little relentlessly chauvinistic, although it was ever thus at Olympic Games, where Baron de Coubertin’s thing about the taking part not the winning is traditionally jettisoned before the sound of the last opening ceremony firework has faded” Martin Kelner in his Guardian sporting TV review.

LOST AND FOUND? Does the Main Press Centre actually exist? We only ask because with a couple of very unscientific surveys conducted over the first few days of the Games, we can find hardly any no signs in the Olympic Park pointing the way to the MPC.

As we tramped across the park from Stratford, we have also asked almost 20 volunteers, those cheery people wearing hi-vis jackets or tracksuits in the day-glo purples from LOCOG’s colourblind pallette. Not a single one had heard of the Main Press Centre, not even the four of them whose command of English was distinctly eastern European.

“The Main Press Centre? There’s two of those aren’t there?” one volunteer said, looking at her LOCOG-issued iPad.

What would de Coubertin have made of this? The dancers at the beach volleyball at Horseguards

Given that the MPC and International Broadcast Centre is one of the “Big Five” builds on the Park, and LOCOG has been expecting 10,000 media to cover the event, it seems a little odd for the organisers’ signage to be quite so coy about the matter.

“It’s the first time I’ve been to a Games where they’ve not had signs to the MPC,” one senior figure from an international sports federation told

  • Not for the first time is a sports journalist up a creek without anything to propel them. The list of lost objects that have been handed in to the Help Desk at the MPC after the first weekend includes: passports, phones, broadcast cameras, Kindles, clothing, keys, cameras and lenses, dictaphones, wallets, sunglasses, microphones, laptops, binoculars and … a set of paddles.

List monopoly broken: Congratulations and thanks to the IAAF, the world athletics federation, for busting LOCOG’s monopoly on information for the Games by publishing the full entry lists for the track events which begin on Friday. The IAAF has the material on its website, free to access. Unlike LOCOG, which charges the media £180 to obtain information that is vital to doing its job of reporting on the Games.

“I went along to the magnificent Horse Guards’ Parade location half expecting the audience to be dotted with potential candidates for the sex offenders’ register, wearing bottle- bottom glasses and with anoraks on their laps. Instead, I found a wild-eyed crowd behaving as if they had simultaneously overdosed on E-numbers, caffeine, anti-depressants, beer and more beer” Des Kelly makes an appeal to his Daily Mail sports editor to be allowed to get out more. Or maybe this is just an excuse for us to use a picture from the beach volleyball.

Health and safety scares the horses

“It was a disgrace, an absolute disgrace.” The comments of an infuriated journalist?

No: veteran three-day eventer Andrew Nicholson of New Zealand fuming at Greenwich yesterday, after the international judges suspended the dressage competition when a clap of thunder was heard.

Nicholson was an individual medal favourite, but his horse, Nereo, was unsettled by the delay and goes in today’s cross-country phase only 21st. Thus the British weather appeared to come to the aid of the British team, which of course includes a former SJA Sportswoman of the Year, Zara Phillips, who was watched yesterday by her mother and grandfather, also known as the Princess Royal and Duke of Edinburgh.

“I thought the British were meant to be sporting people. The weather wasn’t bad enough to warrant that, it’s just a bit of rain isn’t it?” Hasn’t Nicholson heard of ‘ealth ‘n safety?


Mon Sep 24: SJA Autumn Golf Day, Muswell Hill GC. Booking details from Paul Trow at

Thu Dec 6: 2012 SJA British Sports Awards. An Olympic year extravaganza. Note the date in your diary now. Details to be announced soon.