With the torch just days from being lit, the Internet is ablaze with conversation: Is London really the first “social media games?” Are the IOC’s social media policies too restrictive? Will Michael Phelps eclipse the career medal record?

Of course, there are no answers to these questions, only opinions and speculations (at least at this point). I, however, would like to propose a fact: This will be the most talked about games to date.

To argue over who got there first–Vancouver or London–is irrelevant. Did Vancouver utilize Twitter when they played host back in 2010? Sure. But it pales in comparison to this year’s social media integration, similar to how Vancouver outdid Beijing’s 2008 games when Facebook had only 100 million users.

Over the past two years, social media has exploded. In addition to Twitter and Facebook, we’ve seen the emergence of Google+, Instagram and foursquare, all of which will be utilized at this year’s games.

 

Virtual Village
This year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) developed an online Village. Through their Athletes’ Hub, users can virtually enter the Village and connect with their favorite athlete’s Facebook and Twitter profiles. They can also access Instagram portraits and chat directly with a featured athlete in a Twitter #asknathlete forum.

Once the games get underway, those who signed up for the Athletes’ Hub will also be able to participate in a challenge where fans compete to predict the outcome of various events and see how they rank on the leaderboard against their friends and fans around the world.

More Vulnerable Than Ever
While this level of integration is exciting, it’s also leaves the IOC a bit vulnerable. Not only are their more users on more platforms, but a large percentage of those users can access social media from their mobile phone, allowing for immediate reactions to be posted on the Internet for all to see.

And this type of vulnerability has already been exposed. “Um, so we’ve been lost on the road for 4hrs,” said twice world 400 meters hurdles champion Kerron Clement via Twitter, demonstrating how just one Tweet can skew the perception of the games. “Not a good first impression London.”

Of course, this can also swing in their favor with fans posting positive Tweets, statuses, and images.

What Does this Mean?
In the end, this level of international conversation shows just how connected we are thanks to social media. If anything, it’s shown how powerful a device it can be, from both a business and a personal perspective. I guess we’ll just have to see if all that power is a good thing. Either way, I’m sure we’ll hear about it.