Social Listening Shows the Controversial Side of the Olympics

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Social Listening Shows the Controversial Side of the Olympics


The pinnacle of this summer’s sporting events and competitions are culminating in Rio on August 5th for the 2016 Olympics, yet, according to our Social Listening platform, we are hearing very little about the actual sports that will be taking place at the event. Instead people are talking about Zika, the economic crash and attacks not only on the streets, but on Brazil’s credibility to host such a prestigious event.
With all the controversies that are going on, I built a dashboard with Synthesio’s Social Listening platform to find out what were the major discussions surrounding this year’s Olympics, before, during and after the games. As such, this will be my first post about this, but you can expect to see more coming up.

It should be no surprise to you that in the initial build up (5/6/16-7/25/16) to the Olympics there is one controversial topic that is driving social media conversations, with more than 46k mentions out of an overall 252k-plus: Zika.



Zika Virus

By far the most controversial point in my Social Listening overview of the Olympics is the threat of the Zika Virus, which is spreading across Brazil at alarming rates and it’s currently flourishing in Rio de Janeiro. It is very easy to catch, mainly through a simple mosquito bite, and with people descending on Rio from all corners of the world, the risk of taking back the virus to their native countries is causing great concern and fears of a global outbreak.

Negative conversation across social media is shifting the attention from the participating athletes, to the athletes who are deciding not to participate due to apprehension of catching the virus, the list of whom is growing almost daily. Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and LeBron James are perhaps the most high profile names to take themselves out of the equation, and if they can do it, the possibility of a domino effect becomes more than likely.


The biggest topics of conversation around the Zika virus have surrounded Rory McIlroy’s withdrawal and the publications from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Harvard Public Health Review.

Calls from the Harvard Public Health Review that the games ‘must not proceed’ were ignored by WHO, who rejected the claims as they believe the Olympics will not ‘significantly alter’ the spread of the virus. Ultimately, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have refused to move or postpone the event.

Novak Djokovic even said that in his opinion, choosing precaution is ‘unthinkable,’ and many in the general public are siding with the tennis number one. To some, the virus is simply a “mild flu unless you’re pregnant,” some brandishing the list of athletes to drop out as “a bunch of weenies.” However it is those who are arguably better informed, such as the respected scientists, who are backing the decisions made by the likes of Rory McIlroy.

It has now gotten to a point where some are calling the whole situation a ‘farce’ and are questioning at what point the games should just be cancelled.



Crime Rates

According to my Social Listening overview, one of the many reasons why people argue that Rio shouldn’t have been awarded the Olympics is due to the random street crimes and weak laws that give the city the persona of a beautiful but dangerous place. There is a scare that unalert tourists and athletes will be victims to street gangs, and individuals who make a living out of taking every opportunity to gain access to others’ properties, cars, bags and trouser pockets. In fact, Jason Lee, a New Zealand Jiu Jitsu athlete, already sparked fears and controversies over this when he was allegedly kidnapped for a few hours and forced to withdraw money from multiple ATMs by gentlemen dressed as police officers in broad daylight on the streets of Rio.

There are even many live streams online of CCTV footage from the streets of Rio for the purpose of warning people of the typical situations where crimes occur (not to mention blog posts such as this one).



Russian Doping Scandal


Just when people thought that the Rio Olympics couldn’t have any more controversy surrounding it, news recently broke that Russia has been operating a state-sponsored doping program for years across the “vast majority” of summer and winter Olympic sports. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) found manipulation of urine samples provided by its athletes.
Russia faced a backlash of criticism from this, with many people demanding a wide blanket ban of Russia from the entire Rio Olympics games, however in the end, only some of the Russian athletes were banned, while many of the major athletes in events that Russia has primarily done well in, were not banned.


There are many arguments why the Olympics should not be hosted by Rio, and this Olympics games seem to have more controversy around them than perhaps any other in history. What do you think are some of the biggest controversies, and do you think that these games should be cancelled? Let us know what you think in the comment section, and if you want to find out more about how we pulled this data and how we can do it for you and your business, feel free to request a demo of our Social Listening platform by clicking the button below!


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