The biggest social media failure of the 2012 Olympics is Twitter itself

It seems only days ago that London organizers were proclaiming the 2012 Summer Games to be the first true social media Olympics. In less than a week, it's become apparent that nobody involved with these games truly understands social media — including, it seems, Twitter itself.

The litany of ham-fisted errors and miscues over the week is, by now, well-known:

-Olympic organizers didn't prepare for Games attendees to tweet and text; as a result, the data network was overwhelmed, the stats database transmission system failed and TV viewers were left to guess what might be happening in the weekend's cycling races;

-Two athletes have been banned from the Games for posting tweets that made fun of other countries;

-athletes are attempting to rally support for permission to tweet their sponsors' brands during the Games — deemed a serious no-no by the IOC, which admits it wants all the sponsor money for itself;

-On Monday, NBC admitted that a complaint it filed with Twitter over critic Guy Adams' posting of a corporate e-mail address led to the critic also being kicked off Twitter.

Note: That complaint was retracted on Tuesday - but even more astonishingly, the network told the Daily Telegraph was Twitter itself that initiated the complaint process.

in an email to The Daily Telegraph, Christopher McCloskey, NBC Sport's vice-president of communications, said Twitter had actually contacted the network's social media department to alert them to Mr Adams's tweets.

"Our social media dept was actually alerted to it by Twitter and then we filled out the form and submitted it," he wrote.

Adams' account was re-instated on Tuesday, to little fanfare.

NBC is mired in a series of controversies surrounding Twitter this week. The network's insistence on running the opening ceremonies on tape delay led to complaints of "spoilers" being levied at journalists -- including Yahoo! Sports' own Nick Cotsonika -- who had the audacity to report on an event at the same time as it happened.
@cotsonika I enjoy your hockey Tweets. I find it quite retarded that you knowingly are ruining the Opening Ceremony for many people. IDIOTIC

— Jeff Moss (@JeffMossDSR) July 27, 2012

NBC also struck a partnership with Twitter that includes the televised reading of tweets from celebrity talking head Ryan Seacrest. Ironically, on Saturday afternoon as Seacrest read out prominent Olympic tweets, he made no mention of #NBCFail, the trending hashtag that pointed out how bad NBC's tape delays were going.

It's not surprising that NBC has been so defiant in ignoring the conventions of social media. The network relies of pre-packaged, carefully-produced television in prime time for its revenues, and has little regard for online services that don't feed into the televised money-making machine.

What is surprising is how immature, and complicit, Twitter has been during the process. While LOCOG can be somewhat faulted for allowing its data infrastructure to be compromised, isn't it time for Twitter to understand how a big event affects its, and others' networks? Shouldn't Twitter's user policies be able to withstand a complaint from a corporate partner that didn't like the posting of a corporate e-mail address? If Twitter made its reputation as a clear, unfiltered source of information off the backs of revolts in Iran, Egypt and the Arab world, how can it possibly justify corporate partnerships that insist on varnished, one-sided versions of reality?

These may, indeed, be the "social media Olympics," but only insofar as to demonstrate how inept most of the partners in these Games really are. Where the IOC and NBC have fallen short of the standards established by social media consumers, nobody has failed these Olympics more than Twitter itself, which has proven once again that it's just not prepared as a technology or a company, for the world's biggest stage.

Andrew McKay is the social editor at Yahoo! Canada and a blogger for Eh Game.