“I like the olympics it’s like a little sport tapas. Little bit of archery, little bit of swimming, little bit of being in love with Simone biles. Very adhd friendly tbh” @biscoffbabe
We have been relishing in the sporting tapas that is the Olympics. This week’s 52INSIGHTS presents some of the trending conversations around the Olympics - what we’re hearing youth are loving and loathing.
LOVING: BEHIND THE SCENES TIKTOKS & EMOTIONAL GOGGLEBOX-ING
Athletes are giving fans behind the scenes access to what it’s like to be at the Olympics on TikTok. From testing out the controversial cardboard beds to fangirling over other athletes, we’re getting a new insight into the experience through TikTok that we haven’t seen before. The official ‘Olympics’ TikTok page is also great. To discover more Olympian TikTokers read more here.
Elsewhere, as family and friends of athletes did not get to be in Tokyo at the games in person, fans are enjoying emotional behind the scenes footage of supporters virtually cheering on their Olympians. Here’s a great one.
“I’ve *finally* found my purpose in life - crying my eyes out watching the friends and family of Olympic athletes reacting to them winning Gold. It’s like a really emotional Gogglebox” @jackremmington
LOVING: MENTAL HEALTH OPENNESS
The emotional rollercoaster that is the Olympic games was further reinforced through the lens of mental health, with the participation of advocate Naomi Osaka (23), and gymnastic superstar Simone Biles (24) who withdrew from the women’s team event this week due to pressure on her mental health. There was widespread support (and condemnation of backlash) on the internet for this move, reinforcing the value of prioritising mental health.
“I say put mental health first because if you don't then you aren't going to enjoy your sport and you aren't going to succeed as much as you want to. So, it's OK sometimes to even sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself because it shows how strong of a competitor and person you really are." Simone Biles
As Justin Bieber put it - sometimes our no’s are more powerful than our yes’s. We’re not even going to give more air-time to Piers Morgan’s dismissal of Biles’ self-care oriented move (LOATHE).
LOATHING: SEXIST UNIFORM STANDARDS
“We wanted to show that every woman, everybody, should decide what to wear." German gymnast Elisabeth Seitz
“It’s shocking that we have to pay for not playing in our panties.” Tonje Lerstad
The overt sexualisation of female uniform standards for competing athletes is a hot topic of conversation. German gymnasts chose to wear full length unitards in a statement against sexualisation, while the Norwegian women’s handball team made headlines for breaking the rules to compete at the European beach handball championships in shorts rather than bikini bottoms. The move by the Norwegian team was wholeheartedly supported by many, and garnered more attention with celebrity endorsement on social media:
“I’m VERY proud of the Norwegian female beach handball team FOR PROTESTING THE VERY SEXIST RULES ABOUT THEIR “uniform”. The European handball federation SHOULD BE FINED FOR SEXISM. Good on ya, ladies. I’ll be happy to pay your fines for you. Keep it up.” Pink
In an ironic turn of events (confirming how baffling the uniform situation is for female athletes) another conversation saw Welsh Paralympic Olivia Breen was told her competition briefs were too short.
LOVING: YOUNG RECORD BREAKERS & THE REFUGEE TEAM
Everyone loves to witness a bit of history being made, and the Olympics provides no shortage of these stories. The skateboarding wins were especially celebratory, as two 13 year old skaters broke records. Japan’s Momiji Nishiya made history winning Gold in the first ever women’s skateboarding competition (she’s also the second youngest champion in Olympics history). Thirteen year old Rayssa Leal from Brazil earned silver in the event.
For the second time ever, there was also a Refugee Olympic Team competing. The team has nearly tripled in size since 2016 (from 10 to 29 members) and comprises athletes from 11 countries living and training in 13 host countries. This is also the first year that there is a Refugee Paralympic Team. Read more about the team here.
LOATHING: PROTEST BANS & LGBTI+ RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
Controversy and the Olympics always seem to go hand in hand, and this year's games were no different when the story broke that social media teams were being banned from showing athletes protesting (taking the knee) at the games. Peaceful protest is permitted, but sanctions are threatened for protesting on the podium. Finding the loophole, Costa Rican gymnast Luciana Alvarado (18) actually incorporated taking a knee and raising a clenched fist in the air into her floor routine, in tribute to the BLM movement to highlight, in her own words “the importance of everyone (being) treated with respect and dignity”. For other athletes like Afghanistan's cyclist Ali Zada (25), even competing in the Games is a triumphant statement.
Concerns have also been raised about Japan violating LGBTQ+ rights. According to The Guardian: “Japan’s ruling party has been accused of violating the Olympic charter after it failed to approve a bill to protect the rights of the LGBT community, during discussions marred by homophobic outbursts from conservative MPs.” Reports are that this is the queerest Games on record with over 160 openly LGBTQ+ athletes competing.
LOVING: BRANDS GETTING IT RIGHT (NIKE’S LEGACY)
Nike’s youth offering comes in the form of their Best Day Ever campaign, which focuses on some of the female athletes competing in the games. Watch the TVC here. The sports giant has history when it comes to the Games - their memorable, award-winning Find Your Greatness campaign in the lead-up to London 2012 particularly standing out, while they created gold running shoes for 200 and 400 metre champion Michael Johnson at Atlanta 1996. All the more impressive considering the stringent sponsorship rules that have, at various times, been in place for brands that are not official International Olympic Committee partners. These were relaxed slightly in 2016 which is why Nike are now able to feature a number of Games-participating athletes in their latest campaign, one of whom, slightly awkwardly for Nike this time around, is Sha'Carri Richardson, who has subsequently been banned from the Olympics after testing positive for marijuana during the US Trials. They also created a lovely piece with 13 year old skate star Rayssa Leal.
The Olympics is rich brand territory - an emotionally rich terrain that inspires captive global audiences. It’s a place where dreams are made and lost - where a life’s work is captured in mere seconds of performance. There's a rich variety of entertainment to be found - everyone can find a niche, or simply enjoy the novelty of so many unique sports being broadcast throughout the event. Even if you are not a sponsor, there are many creative ways to capitalize on these Games in the right way. #MemeOlympics is a great example of how Indian Twitter tapped into the cultural conversation, and funny Twitter reactions to the opening ceremony.
From sexism and mental health to equality, it’s fascinating to see the Olympics stage driving cultural change. This is a space where athletes are coming to increasingly understand their significant influence on culture and standing up for themselves. If you’re a brand activating in the sporting arena, it’s important to understand the social context and political conversations happening in the particular industry you are activating in. The opportunity to connect and impact around cultural issues surrounding sport is ripe.