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Is Twitter up to the Olympic challenge?

A mysterious hours-long outage on the eve of the London Games puts the microblogging site's ambitions to the test.


Twitter has an Olympic-size headache on its hands.

The microblogging site is making a push to be a bigger part of live events -- especially the London Games -- but had trouble keeping its feeds up and running on the eve of one of its biggest.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo told The Wall Street Journal this week that the service is trying to "more closely tie the shared experience on Twitter to the actual event that is happening," essentially increasing its presence associated with the event. That goal is reflected in a partnership Twitter has formed with NBCUniversal to act as an "official narrator" of sorts for the game.

The microblogging site is hoping to attract a wider audience with the creation of a single page to corral the millions of tweets expected to be sent by athletes, fans, and TV personalities during the Olympics in London. The San Francisco-based company hopes that the partnership, which will include on-air promotion of the page by the TV network, will give it a chance to show that it can be a serious moneymaker; major brands such as General Electric and Procter & Gamble have reportedly bought ads to promote their association with the Games.

The International Olympic Committee, which has also launched an athlete-centric Twitter feed of its own, has called the London Games the "most social and tech-savvy Olympics ever." Analysts tell the Daily Mail that they expect the 100-meter men's final -- the most popular of the track events -- to set a record in terms of number of tweets per second. (The current record of 15,358 tweets per second was achieved in Euro 2012 as Spain scored its fourth goal.)

But little more than 24 hours before the opening ceremonies of the Olympics -- altogether, perhaps the biggest event of the year -- Twitter experiences twin data center failures that left millions of users tweetless for about two hours.

In an "infrastructural double-whammy," parallel systems went down at nearly the same time, defeating the purpose of having a redundant center to act as a backup. At this time, it appears Twitter is still in the dark about the outage's cause.

Mazen Rawashdeh, Twitter's vice president of engineering, made an ominous reference to the Olympics -- one that he probably didn't mean, since the Games are Twitter's chance to shine in the spotlight.

"I wish I could say that today's outage could be explained by the Olympics or even a cascading bug," Rawashdeh said in a company blog post explaining the outage. "Instead, it was due to this infrastructural double-whammy. We are investing aggressively in our systems to avoid this situation in the future."

CNET has contacted Twitter to see what extra steps it might be taking before the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in London tomorrow and will update this report when we learn more.

Well, Twitter, this is where you wanted to be. Are you up to the challenge? As the saying goes, the world is watching.