As the world tuned into the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, it may be worth noting that the way we “watch” such spectacular events has been profoundly transformed bytechnology over the decades. Rather than just tuning in to watch, the TV audienceexperienced the games, in a much more exciting, more immediate and more meaningful way.

With exciting and completely accessible interactive and ground-breaking personal and social networking capabilities, viewers could not only watch the events that truly interested them; they could record other events, broadcast a different venue on a different screen, and exchange comments and opinions with friends in real-time via Facebook and Twitter apps.

A slew of technological advances have revolutionized the Olympics over the decades. Most extensive of these – and the one with perhaps the most impact for fans – have been improvements in broadcast technology, bringing the games from a stadium possibly thousands of kilometers away right into our living rooms.

Smart engaging features have not just conquered the TV in our living room, it is now everywhere, on any device, allowing viewers to do almost anything, but being on the fields themselves. Viewers could access YouTube coverage, watching their favorite teams compete – actually controlling the viewing experience; rewinding, watching again and again to highlight and understand specific incidents and techniques – and share comments directly through “chat” and “messaging”  with their friends as if they were in the same room with them.

In recent years, and certainly starting with the London Olympics, social media has played an increasingly important role in our Olympic experience. The games were dubbed the “Twitter Olympics”, due to the enormous number of real-time tweets reflecting the latest results and out of the ordinary commentary.

Digital and social media coverage of Sochi 2014 brought fans closer to the Winter Games action than ever before, with both the International Olympic Committee and the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee engaging fans through a variety of different platforms– web sites, l broadcasts and social media.

The popularity of the social sites was a great evident: the Sochi Games Facebookpage had between 250,000 and 400,000 likes at any one time. In the first two days of the Games alone, received as many visitors as during the entire duration of Vancouver 2010.

The official Olympic YouTube channel attracted more than 600,000 views a day. TheIOC (International Olympic Committee) also has more than 33 million fans on a variety of social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and more.

Gone are the days when viewers had to wait for scheduled broadcasts and had to be seated in front of a TV set. Social networking has become now a way-of-life, where we can view events “on-the-fly”, anywhere, anytime and in virtually any situation. Now fans can get full immediate visual access 24/7 to any events while they are commuting, on a train – in some cases nowadays, even while flying, walking the dog, in a restaurant, coffee shop, or at the gym…

Taking the concept even further, this year, the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games mobile app, Wireless Olympic Works (WOW), has turned the world’s Android devices into mobile sports stations, providing fans interactive features where they could be involved with what is happening at the games at any given moment and share thoughts, comments, images, and more. Fans used it to personalize their own Olympic Winter Games experience planning their viewing to their preferences.

Fans had also access to a location-based Olympic Winter Games venue guide through the Samsung WOW technology, which provided Android-user sports fans around the world with real-time access to event schedules, latest reports on results, medal standings and Olympic records.

An added interactive dimension was the Sochi 2014: Olympic Games ResortFacebook game; a unique simulator where players would take the role of the organizers of the Olympic Winter Games. They would build sports facilities, train athletes, organize events, develop infrastructure and attract tourists from all over the world!  This game took full advantage of the popularity of social network games played via social media. The game recorded 500,000 players!

With all these various options, opportunities and exciting ways to experience the games, having such rich interactive, social and personal capabilities enabled viewers to be more engaged, more involved and to derive more enjoyment.

All this meant that service providers and broadcasters were also able to take enormous advantage of this extremely wide digital access to the games, and plan their promotional campaigns accordingly, using targeted messaging and advertisements- knowing that they would reach their customers via myriad of media all of which enhanced the viewer’s enjoyment of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics….highlighting the incredibly diverse ways in which viewers can be engaged and the endless possibilities and choices a viewer has in how to enjoy – and experience – events and entertainment.

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