TOKYO — A condom fixed Jessica Fox’s canoe, and skateboarder Jagger Eaton celebrated his bronze medal by streaming live on Instagram. Margielyn Didal “let” Tony Hawk take a photo with her to post on Facebook.
The Athletes Village’s cardboard frame beds have been tested for stability by Olympians who have treated them like trampolines on almost every social media platform, and a Greek water polo player has created a dating app – which could have been useful for the American rugby player Ilona Maher, who rolled with the schtick of the “Thirsty Olympian”.
The bespoke Tokyo Games, where pandemic precautions keep spectators out, have become more of a digital affair than ever. From social media to streaming, athletes and their events are reaching audiences in record and pioneering ways.
More than 100 million unique users visited Olympic digital platforms or used the Tokyo 2020 app in the first week of the games. US rights holder NBC landed 2.5 billion minutes of streaming Olympic content across all of its digital platforms, the network said, a 77% increase from the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games. week in Tokyo was the highest weekly usage ever for the Peacock streaming platform.
But it’s the social media platforms that are doing the buzz. Social posts from Olympic accounts on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Weibo generated 3.7 billion engagements. The Olympics social media accounts have a combined total of 75 million followers.
Then there is the TikTok phenomenon. Launched in 2017, the short-form video-sharing app has been one of these games’ favorite social media platforms. Athletes you never heard of before Tokyo — especially those in niche sports — used TikTok to capture moments that not only went viral, but became the way to introduce themselves to the world.
Karate, skateboarding, sport climbing, and surfing — all sports that resonate with a younger demographic — have certainly helped drive traffic to TikTok. The podium winners in women’s street skateboarding were 13, 13 and 16, and silver medalist Rayssa Leal of Brazil has 3.4 million followers on TikTok, half of her 6.5 million followers on Instagram.
Even the official Olympics page has skyrocketed with over three billion views of videos related to its #OlympicSpirit challenge.
“TikTok, as my son told me recently, is the digital place of choice for young audiences,” said IOC spokesperson Mark Adams. “The Games have to go where the people are.”
WHO STAND OUT
The world knew gymnast Simone Biles before her second Olympics, and her teammate Sunisa Lee was also hugely popular. After Lee won the women’s all-around, she exceeded one million followers on his Instagram account. When she settled for uneven bars bronze, the 18-year-old admitted her increased fame had been a distraction.
But Ilona Maher? Few people knew about the 24-year-old rugby player from Vermont who could very well be the star of TikTok at the Olympics. Posting while wearing a red, white and blue bob, the 5ft 10in, 200lb depreciating nursing school grad read an article that called her ‘the thirsty Olympian’ and ran with it .
Maher is using a #beastbeautybrains campaign and hopes her videos will spread body image positivity, bring more attention to the sport of rugby and, most importantly, land her endorsement deals.
“As a female athlete in an emerging sport, I don’t make a lot of money, so hopefully this will open doors for brand deals,” Maher says. As for the message she tries to convey to young girls: “It’s good to take up space. You can be so many things, a beast on the rugby pitch, a beauty at all times, and have as much intelligence as the smartest person there is.”
Jagger Eaton arrived in Tokyo with a following in the skateboarding community that began in 2012 when he set a record as the youngest competitor in the X Games at the age of 11. But it wasn’t until his sport was added to the Olympics that the rest of America became familiar with the 20-year-old Arizonan who won bronze with AirPods in his ears and his iPhone in his pocket.
When he missed a trick and was shown looking for his fallen AirPod, Eaton went viral.
“I’m so glad skateboarding got so much attention. I think it really moves the sport forward and legitimizes skateboarding,” says Eaton, who says he has “no idea” why America fell in love with him. His social media presence is deliberate, with a defined aesthetic that he hopes will legitimize skateboarding.
“I feel like people really see how much I love skateboarding and how much I want to give back to the skate community, as well as the younger generation that has motivated me so much,” says Eaton. .
Australian canoeist Jessica Fox found her fame not by winning gold in canoe slalom or bronze in kayak slalom, but when she posted a TikTok video of someone using a condom to fix her nose. boat.
Filipino skateboarder Margielyn Didal posted a photo alongside Tony Hawk, considered the greatest skateboarder of all time, who jumped on Hawk’s running joke that he is often misidentified in public. When his message was misinterpreted because Didal didn’t recognize Hawk, the GOAT had to explain himself.
Erik Shoji, an American volleyball player, captured attention with TikTok food reviews and tours of the Athlete Village, as well as behind-the-scenes looks at the Athlete Experience. He didn’t take social media seriously until he launched a YouTube channel last year while battling COVID-19.
Shoji stepped up his presence both as a way to preserve his memories and to shine a light on the USA men’s volleyball team off the court.
“People see us play but don’t really know us off the pitch,” says the Hawaiian. “I hope that by showing myself and my teammates on TikTok, viewers got to know us in a different light and fell in love with our team.”
Halfway around the world in Slovakia, 18-year-old synchronized swimmer Silvia Solymosyova has gained ground despite not yet being an Olympian. Solymosyova studied TikTok trends to gain 1.2 million followers while reaching American audiences with her underwater videos.
“Many Slovaks think that anything from abroad is better. My region is too small and my niche is too specific. That’s why I was trying to engage primarily with American TikTokers and target English-speaking audiences,” she said. “Because I’m GenZ, the trend setter on TikTok, I learned the skills and got a bit of a head start.”
Then there’s Marios Kapotsis, trying to lead Greece to their first-ever Olympic medal in men’s water polo. The 29-year-old has developed a dating app called “Vespr” which only works at night.
“So the app starts when the sun goes down, it’s open, and when the sun comes up, it’s closed,” says Kapotsis. “So it’s only overnight. Whatever you do overnight, the next night it’s all over. So every night is something new.”
AP sportswriter Jay Cohen and AP reporter Syd Fryer contributed to this report.