There may be 100 days to go until the start of the Summer Olympics, but the London Games just got a lot closer.
Today, the International Olympic Committee launched The Hub, a new social-media portal to give fans a way to connect with their favorite sports and athletes and to give the Olympians themselves a way to build their social profiles in the months before the event.
For starters, The Hub will feature a searchable database of many current and former athletes' Facebook and Twitter accounts -- something the IOC hopes will allow athletes to increase their number of followers, and ideally, raise their "influence or celebrity." For fans, the portal will be a one-stop shop for tracking down their favorite competitors' tweets and get an easy glimpse into their preparations and their thoughts on the upcoming Olympics.
Jumping on one of the hottest bandwagons around, the IOC has also built a number of so-called "gamification" elements into The Hub. Among them are incentives to follow as many Olympians as possible: the more athletes you follow, the more points you earn, and the more features you can unlock. Among the goodies that are available are training tip videos from past Olympic medalists such as Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci, American swimmer Mark Spitz, English figure skaters Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean. Fans can also earn virtual "medals" from past Olympics and some actual prizes that will be unveiled as the London Games approach.
Once the competitions actually begin, The Hub will be home to real-time results, updates from athletes, and live text chats.
On the surface, these features seem fairly rudimentary given the state of social media today. But the IOC is positioning The Hub as the fulcrum of the "first social media Olympics." The organization says that more than 1,000 athletes have already signed up to be part of The Hub and that the number is likely to grow over the next 100 days. Still, there's no word on who will loft a virtual torch and get the Games going online.