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Rio 2016: is Olympic spirit alive and well?

The 2016 Summer Olympics took flight with August 5th’s Opening Ceremony, lighting up Maracanã Stadium at 8pm local time. The world’s most historic sporting event is back. Pre-match tweets glittered with #Rio2016 emojis, (free to use by the general public) while a broad sweep of hashtags are reserved for sponsor-only companies and organisations. Observify is going for the gold in media analysis - here’s what we’ve discovered so far.

The major narrative continues as it has throughout the centuries, showcasing the buzz and anticipation typical of the lead up to the Olympic Games. The patriotic colours, five-ringed paraphernalia, team poses and candid moments have all been there. The world’s first #TeamRefugees is a welcome addition, buoying up the vision everyone seems hungry for in light of Brexit, North American politics and recent European terror attacks.

Over a week’s tracking, Observify picked up 174 000 mentions of #Rio2016. Of these, 11K were found by news monitoring, while fans made up the bulk with 150K posts and tweets on social media. Overall sentiment had been predominantly positive in nature, but as of August 2, concerns about security and infrastructure began to escalate. #OlympicVillage raised eyebrows when the Australian team were forced to evacuate their quarters due to a fire - as did the alleged theft of #TeamGB gear. Sentiment has now tipped from 78% positive toward 54% neutral/negative, as users question the sanitary condition of their teams’ accommodation. Even more widely reported is Rio de Janeiro’s heavy water pollution; efforts to improve sewage treatment since the city won the Olympic bid in 2009 haven’t been smooth sailing.

The risk of Zika infection emerged as a central topic by August 4, taking up as much as 84.7% of the conversation (news outlets, social media, blogs and forums). By day’s end, some tweets displayed a more optimistic tone, spreading hope for early vaccines. Both meme/GIF culture and traditional satire took hold, as users and cartoonists began posting mosquito themed content.

Time will tell, but the coming two weeks promise a wealth of conversation, online and on the ground. If hashtags like #SailForGold, #todayistheday and #GoForTheGold are anything to go by, team spirit isn’t going anywhere just yet.

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