Twitter blamed for disrupting cycling coverage

IOC say fans should 'only send urgent updates' to avoid blocking network

by Sarah Barth   July 29, 2012  

Olympic road race 2012

The International Olympic Committee has blamed Twitter for disrupting the coverage of the men's road race on Saturday.

Following criticism of the event's broadcasting, in which timing and positions in the form electronic updates failed to reach commentators, the BBC hit out at the Games's broacasters, the OBS.

But the International Olympic Committee said fans sending updates to Twitter while watching the race had in effect jammed transmissions of race information.

Communications director Mark Adams told the Guardian: "From my understanding, one network was oversubscribed, and OBS are trying to spread the load to other providers. We don't want to stop people engaging in this by social media but perhaps they might consider only sending urgent updates."

The updates would have been sent via GPS transmitters mounted on the individual competitors' bikes, which were not received, leading to confusion as to the gaps between the breakaways, and even who had taken third place in the sprint finish.

A spokeswoman for Games organisers Locog said: "There are fixed timing points at the start and finish line, as well as one at Box Hill which Locog provides. These worked well and the result and timing of the race are not in doubt."

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Didn't seem much better today (though at least the Eurosport commentators seemed to know who was who unlike the dear old beeb!
Pathetic excuses from the IOC and the BBC!

posted by davkt [25 posts]
29th July 2012 - 20:19

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BBC was decent today, not many timing gaps, but they brought their own stop watches.

Blaming people tweeting? Wise up, so because people had GPS on their phone's it disrupted the GPS timing? Thinking You would have thought they would have had a better system than that.

Whats going to happen in the TT on Wednesday then if everyone is sending updates again Wink

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posted by Gkam84 [7955 posts]
29th July 2012 - 20:25

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so it is the fans fault now,..

really, i mean, words fail me, what did they expect!

Oh sorry i didn't realise that i can't use the phone i have paid to use.

How about paying phone users not to use their phones if it is that much of an issue!

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posted by mrmo [822 posts]
29th July 2012 - 20:34

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Relying on a public network for essential corporate activity is asking for trouble.

Timing points, radios and motorbikes with boards as they do in the Tour de France would have worked as a backup.

In any event it was unlikely to have been just Twitter updates - text messages aren't going to use up that much bandwidth. There would have been a huge number of photos uploaded to all manner of sites, or being sent, as well as phone calls.

I'm not a telecom engineer but I think live phone calls, which can't be packaged and sent in bits, would be the most resource intensive.

Is it about a bicycle ?

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posted by abudhabiChris [465 posts]
29th July 2012 - 20:39

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I don't know guys.

I tweeted a fair - Fair - amount today.

Plain Face

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1724 posts]
29th July 2012 - 20:58

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abudhabiChris wrote:
Relying on a public network for essential corporate activity is asking for trouble.

Timing points, radios and motorbikes with boards as they do in the Tour de France would have worked as a backup.

In any event it was unlikely to have been just Twitter updates - text messages aren't going to use up that much bandwidth. There would have been a huge number of photos uploaded to all manner of sites, or being sent, as well as phone calls.

I'm not a telecom engineer but I think live phone calls, which can't be packaged and sent in bits, would be the most resource intensive.

If they were GPS transmitters then they most likely would have been using the 3G coverage to transmit positions (i assume?) so twitter, facebook, picture uploads would have killed the, probably limited, capacity of the area. Stupid system if so, not exactly something you couldnt forsee!

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posted by STATO [396 posts]
29th July 2012 - 20:59

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Raleigh wrote:
I don't know guys.

I tweeted a fair - Fair - amount today.

Plain Face

so it was you then

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [1911 posts]
29th July 2012 - 21:11

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From the Guardian story:

The timings are sent to organisers via tiny GPS transmitters in competitors' bikes

I seriously hope not. The only things that actually transmit GPS signals are usually to be found 12000 miles above the earth and are quite heavy. Though I guess that, if they were carting one of those around, it might explain how come Wiggins et al got quite so tired.

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posted by Doctor Fegg [120 posts]
29th July 2012 - 21:37

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The IOC are blaming the spectators for overloading the mobile phone network during the race? What did they expect? Any muppet could have predicted the public mobile phone network would be under a great load during the race. A pathetic excuse. My twitter/facebook/email actually held up well on my smartphone at Box Hill on Saturday and on The Mall on Sunday. Luckily lots of well informed people tweeting good info during the race. Thanks to them for that.

posted by seanbolton [107 posts]
29th July 2012 - 21:38

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Don't remember any problems in the TdF, but then of course they don't have any mobile phones in France Thinking

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posted by Dave Atkinson [6980 posts]
29th July 2012 - 21:41

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Bring back race radios

posted by miffed [160 posts]
29th July 2012 - 22:10

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Is it not more likely that they were sucking up valuable bandwidth watching the race via the BBC Olympic app?

posted by tracker1972 [2 posts]
29th July 2012 - 22:10

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Raleigh wrote:
I don't know guys.

I tweeted a fair - Fair - amount today.

Plain Face


Hide before they sue you!

blog rowerowy - my blog about bicycles (written in Polish, but feel free to visit me! Smile )

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posted by mikroos [161 posts]
30th July 2012 - 5:39

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miffed wrote:
Bring back race radios

I'd say just the opposite. The race showed that once the riders are forced to think for themselves (instead of being remote-controlled), the race gets much more interesting and no-one can predict what will happen (which, to me at least, is a very positive change).

Race radios? Yes, please feel free - but only as a source of safety-related information and provided by race organisers, not by each team on its own. That would make cycling both safe (which riders want) and interesting (which fans want).

blog rowerowy - my blog about bicycles (written in Polish, but feel free to visit me! Smile )

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posted by mikroos [161 posts]
30th July 2012 - 5:41

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I do think its Good riddance to race radios ...should never been allowed in the first place....Just another thing we can point the finger at for, e.g. that texan we all love to hate

Its back to who can read a race, not just be a puppet of the race directors.
its not just deciding shall we chase a break, who is in it etc ...its now infiltrating sprints

whilst I loved seeing Cav win in Paris again..... seeing the coverage of Yates yelling go, go ,go in his ear when he knew a gap had been created from the in car TV

I do agree it has a valid role for safely,

posted by Parlee-king [38 posts]
30th July 2012 - 6:35

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Of course this is a disgrace but how many of the tweets were worth reading? Social networks are mostly like millions of toddlers shouting 'look at me! look at me!' and when you turn around they're just picking their (or someone else's (RT)) nose.

posted by robert_obrien [115 posts]
30th July 2012 - 8:07

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What could anyone possibly be putting on twitter that would pass the IOC test for being "urgent"?

"OMG! Help! having a heart attack! #acutemyocardialinfarction LOL! please RT"

As has been said by at least one commenter, you don't transmit position via GPS as the article states. A GPS device is purely a receiver that calculates its position from timing signals received from multiple satellites. The devices on the bikes must then have another method of transmitting that position to the organisers. Unlikely to rely just on the 3G networks - there is only a small amount of information to transmit each time so 2G would be fine, or even SMS.

Whatever method you choose, if it relies on mobile networks, and you've got a busy event with lots of spectators, you're going to suffer possible delays. You'd be a fool not to build in some contingency to your plan - the ability to relay the information from the blackboard guys at least? As anyone who has been to major events knows, even SMS suffers from delays in these situations, as it relies on spare capacity on the signalling channels for the voice network.

The IOC statement is plainly ridiculous. You have a hugely successful event and then tell people off for being enthusiastic about it. Perhaps in the future their system should be to get marshalls to shout out the timing gaps as riders go past? The IOC could then complain that people were making too much noise for the system to work properly, and could they please keep quiet as the riders pass (unless they have something urgent to say, of course)?

posted by tonyrockyhorror [2 posts]
30th July 2012 - 8:42

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@robert_obrien Hating on social networks! Are you a member of the flat earth society too?

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posted by hatchet harry [11 posts]
30th July 2012 - 9:19

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Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Rolling On The Floor Laughing

Seriously? Sigh

posted by BigDummy [261 posts]
30th July 2012 - 10:03

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Clearly none of the team behind this system have ever actually attended a major sporting event of the type that brings in a large crowd. If they had, they would have realised the moment the idea was mooted of using the public mobile networks to transmit time-sensitive data that it was completely stupid and was never going to work.

Pathetic.

posted by Bhachgen [69 posts]
30th July 2012 - 10:35

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I don't believe that there were GPS transmitters on the individual competitors' bikes. They were only on the motorcycles, surely? GPS + mobile phone transmitters would be quite large, and looking a photos from the race there didn't seem to be even the passive RFID based transponders which they use during the TdF on the bicycles. I believe at the TdF the GPS data from support vehicles is sent to the TV aircraft via radio link.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1300 posts]
30th July 2012 - 11:10

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Bhachgen wrote:
Clearly none of the team behind this system have ever actually attended a major sporting event of the type that brings in a large crowd. If they had, they would have realised the moment the idea was mooted of using the public mobile networks to transmit time-sensitive data that it was completely stupid and was never going to work.

Pathetic.

The Olympic Broadcasting Service contracted coverage of the road cycling and time trials to NOS, the Dutch broadcaster. Does anyone know which road races in the annual calendar they do? Amstel Gold?

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1300 posts]
30th July 2012 - 11:14

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Just reading in the paper that Lizzie said the timing motorbike had to use hand gestures to convey the time as his pen wouldn't write on a wet white-board.

Gravity - it won't let you down.

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posted by bigmel [63 posts]
30th July 2012 - 11:42

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Unbelievable …. More poor excuses for a badly organised event! At least the public turned out though. I guess they don’t have bandwidth problems at the stadium events because half the seats are empty. To think I got all enthusiastic/patriotic on Friday with the opening ceremony. Only to be disillusioned again by the corporate rip-off and bad planning!! Such a shame.

posted by GrimpeurChris [59 posts]
30th July 2012 - 12:03

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Problem is that the idea was that some of that massive crowd would have been "inspired", but now they have witnessed a farce, they will be lost to the sport, and as future spectators.

posted by thefatcyclist [524 posts]
30th July 2012 - 21:11

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It wasn't me it was somebody else. Is the sort of excuse you would expect from a six year old child not a corporation that boasts it's the best in the world.
I also unfortunately (like THEFATCYCLIST ) think that many people who should have been inspired if they had been more informed will walk away from the sport with a shrug of the shoulders saying so that's cycling why bother.
I know some sport commentators receive flack (rightly or wrongly) but these events are possible the best chance of informing the non cycling public what our sport is about and why some are so very passionate about it I realise this may mean that the commentator will be talking down to the afficionados but it will get the fence sitters off (hopefully on to our side).

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posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [476 posts]
31st July 2012 - 9:05

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I've been to two other Olympic events and have been very impressed. The train services have been excellent, the sign posting of events has been great, the volunteers inside & outside the venues have been helpful & polite. The explanations of the sports were helpful.

I watched some of the race on TV, and it didn't seem too bad. I could follow who was out infront and which groups were there. It's unfortunate if it didn't go to plan for the road race, but I don't think that makes it a farce.

Does anyone know if there was a test event for the road race? If there was and they are using a system that has already worked for an event, then there isn't really any reason that they would expect it to fail. If they've tried to find out why, and that's the answer they were given, then all they can do is try to find a way to make it work for other events that might be using it.

posted by Flippa [35 posts]
31st July 2012 - 21:08

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Never mind the split times, if there'd been any coverage that named people attacking, how they were looking, what their history was etc (ie actually knew arse all about the race and who was riding), Twitter would have been second best. Less people would have relied on it to know what was going on. As it was........

posted by MrsK [32 posts]
1st August 2012 - 17:21

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Hi, Flippa
I was lucky enough to go to the men's road race at box hill and I agree with you the marshelling/volunteers have been great unfortunately the trains were pretty bad.
There are two stations at Dorking completly seperate from each other I was using Great western (Dorking Deepdene) on way past the other Dorking station there was a sign stating a delay of two hours for services I enclose (hopefully) a picture of part of the queue for my train (I went into town had food etc then came back) still queued

12. crowd awaiting the extra trains put on for the event.JPG
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posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [476 posts]
1st August 2012 - 17:35

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Looking at that photo it seems the jobsworths at North Camp station did me a favour by not allowing me get on the Deepdene train with my Brompton. I went back to Farnham, got on my mountain-bike, cycled 25 miles to the Denbies event, had a great day and then cycled home. I can vouch for the strength of the SW tailwind which sustained the breakaway. The ease with which I wafted to Dorking in the morning (from Albury on the still-closed road race route) was in contrast to the struggle home in the evening.

posted by robert_obrien [115 posts]
2nd August 2012 - 9:44

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