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Fans asked to tweet from Olympics only if it's 'urgent'

John D. Sutter, CNN
Broadcasters said they were unable to determine the distance between cyclists during Saturday's men's event in London.
Broadcasters said they were unable to determine the distance between cyclists during Saturday's men's event in London.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Network problems caused issues for Olympic broadcasters on Saturday
  • Reports: Overuse of text and Twitter caused the problems
  • Broadcasters were unable to provide stats about men's cycling road race
  • Spokesman tells The Guardian spectators should send only "urgent" tweets and texts

(CNN) -- This is supposed to be the Twitter Olympics, but tweet- and text-clogged networks appear to have caused problems for broadcasters at the London Games.

Broadcasters complained over the weekend that they were unable to determine the distance between cyclists in Saturday's road races because GPS and communications systems had failed.

A spokesman blamed the problems on overuse of Twitter and text messages.

"From my understanding, One network was oversubscribed, and OBS (the Olympic Broadcasting Service) are trying to spread the load to other providers," Mark Adams, a spokesman for the International Olympic Committee, was quoted by The Guardian as saying.

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"We don't want to stop people engaging in this by social media," he added, "but perhaps they might consider only sending urgent updates."

An unnamed spokesman told Reuters that one mobile network was to blame, but he declined to name that network. "It's a network issue, and it is that which we are working on," he said.

The International Olympic Committee said the issue was resolved by the women's cycling road race Sunday and did not affect the outcome of the race Saturday.

"During Saturday's road race there was an issue with the network provider's signal," spokeswoman Sandrine Tonge wrote in an e-mail to CNN. "As a result the delivery of some of the data could not be sent to the broadcasters. This did not affect the time keeping of the race and the results in any way. The issue was dealt with and the system worked for the Women's road race yesterday."

Alex Girling, a spokeswoman for the London Olympics, said she was not aware that attendees had been asked to curb social media use. "I don't think it's true, to be honest," she said.

The BBC blamed its spotty coverage of Olympic cycling on network issues.

"We have raised our concerns with OBS who have explained that there were GPS problems with the (London organizing committee)-supplied timing graphics which resulted in a lack of information for the commentary teams," the broadcaster said in a statement on its website.

Dubbed the Twitter Games by some observers, the London Olympics have seen social media platforms play an unprecedented role in helping share news and opinions about events. Twitter said more people had posted about the Olympics on that network Thursday, before the opening ceremony, than had during the entire Beijing Olympics in 2008.

"With the entire world tuning in to enjoy the games, Twitter will carry the roar of the crowd," the company wrote on its official blog.

That Olympic officials would ask spectators to hold all but the most "urgent" tweets is prompting some entertaining chatter online. Can any sports-related tweet really be urgent?

"What constitutes an 'urgent' Olympic tweet is anyone's guess," Robert Andrews wrote for PaidContent. "But the request is ironic in light of the IOC's own social media commitment. That Twitter has undone coverage in this way is even more delightfully ironic for those onlookers who enjoy comparing the relative fortunes of each medium. Unlike the TV data issue, consumers do not yet appear to have experienced mobile signal issues during the games."

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