The Olympics have always been one of the most highly publicized, and well documented events in the world. However, with that being said, viewers have only ever been able to see what the cameras want them to see, and have never been privileged with any behind the scenes access to the events. That is, until the video sharing app TikTok came along.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics stood apart from its predecessors for a plethora of different reasons. For one, the games were held a year late due to the global pandemic. They also lacked spectators and were the first games with mask requirements. However, another thing that has made these games so different is the unparalleled behind the scenes access that fans were given through TikTok. The video sharing app was released back in September of 2016, just after the Rio Olympics. Over the past few years it has enjoyed an unprecedented level of success, and now boasts over a billion monthly users. Several of those billion include Olympic athletes who went to the Olympic village, and in between their vigorous training exercises, found time to share their experiences through lighthearted videos on the app.
One of the most well known Olympic users is Team USA rugby player Ilona Maher, who boasts a following of over 300,000 users. She has shared many videos about the intricacies of the Olympic dining hall trash system, as well as the now infamous cardboard beds that the players have been given. She has made jokes about flirting with the other competitors in the village, describing them as ‘tall foreign demigod lookin athletes,’ and has provided fans with an unparalleled perspective of the games.
Other athletes have also chimed in to post their experiences on the app, many of which offering their takes on the cardboard beds. Many athletes have used the app to share the COVID protocols, as well as the fascinating technologies that have been integrated into the Tokyo Olympic village, such as self-driving cars. 18-year-old American diver Tyler Downs went viral after posting a very relatable video about wanting to meet gymnast Simone Biles, and American swimmer Regan Smith and her teammates used some downtime to recreate a viral video of a baby being thrown into a pool at a practice session in the Tokyo pool.
While so much of the 2020 Olympic games had been tainted by the onslaught of the Delta variant of the virus, with over 137 athletes testing positive within just the first couple of days of the games, Olympic TikTok has become a delightful surprise for many fans of the games, and has become one of the defining features of the event. While the Tokyo Olympics has been the first of its kind for many (less than flattering) reasons, it will surely also go down in history as the most accessible and interactive Olympics thus far. For many, the app has made it possible to put faces to the athletes, making it easier to see them as people rather than statistics and numbers.