How Twitter won the Olympics in India

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Last July, the Women’s Hockey Team qualified for the Olympics after a 36 year absence, and Poonam Rani Malik’s (@poonamhockey) iconic selfie Tweet announcing this news captured all of the excitement and anticipation that was in store for for India at #Rio2016.

From then to now, her number of Twitter followers has grown 189 time, a perfect example of how fan interest in India’s Olympians grew exponentially on Twitter in the journey from London to Rio.

As the excitement built and competition played out on Twitter, these were the top trends we observed in India.

Top Trends

  • A historic journey begins with a grand send-off

Indian athletes smashed the record for the largest ever contingent to travel to the Games with 118 representatives qualifying for Rio.

In a special ceremony a month before the Olympics, the Prime Minister of India met every athlete and personally wished each of them on Twitter in a unique first.

The athletes were deeply appreciative of the gesture.

From the send-off with the Prime Minister to landing in Rio and showing fans around Rio, there was plenty to savour from our athletes.

  • India’s most-followed Olympian Sania Mirza even unveiled the special India flag Twitter emoji for the Olympics through the special Twitter Cam app.

  • Celebration of women athletes

It was girl power all the way for India at Rio 2016. Fans came together like never before to publicly voice their gratitude to India’s star performers.

There were more Tweets around the performances of PV Sindhu (@pvsindhu1), Sakshi Malik (@SakshiMalik), Dipa Karmakar (@DipaKarmakar) and Sania Mirza (@MirzaSania) at the Olympics than there were for the India-Pakistan and India-Australia matches at the ICC World T20 2016 combined.

Even mothers were moved and Tweeted about how they would share these stories with their young daughters.

  • Direct, intimate connection between Olympians and fans

Nearly 40 Indian Olympians were on Twitter during #Rio2016, and it was their platform of choice to share their gratitude, pain and success, connecting personally and authentically with fans.

Sakshi Malik and Dipa Karmakar even had a special surprise in store for fans by joining Twitter within hours of their stellar performances and sharing intimate video messages to thank them for their support.

Awareness about the support ecosystem for Indian Athletes

Fans also shared their appreciation for organizations like @OGQ_India, @JSWSports and @GoSportsVoices that have been working compassionately with Indian Olympians behind-the-scenes.

Ask for accountability from administrators

As the first ten days saw no medals for India, there were concerns raised and Tweets sent about the change that is required for the country to be consistently successful.


Finally, there was no joke left unturned as the light hearted side to the Games came to the fore on Twitter as fans picked up (and ran) with the moments that defined Rio.

In celebration and despair, fans in India came together as one on Twitter during the Olympics.

As the road to Tokyo begins, don’t forget to stay in touch with our athletes and cheer them on through the next four years with this easy-to-follow Twitter List.

Till the @OlympicFlame lights up next, adios!