The London 2012 Olympics is over and the UK Internet appeared to survive the experience. During the second week of the extravaganza we ran a poll looking into the online experience of our visitors in relation to the games. The poll received over 1,000 responses and offers some insight into perhaps why the Internet did not meltdown.

One underlying theme in all the questions, was that a good number (24.5% in the first question) appeared to not be interested in the Olympics at all. The poll ran from 6th August to 13th August 2012 so should have reflected the increased interest that was inevitable as millions got drawn into the spectacle. What is clear is that while our visitors did use the Internet to watch video content, a good many (28.8%) were finding all the video content they wanted from other sources, and as the UK had over two dozen TV channels dedicated to the coverage this is understandable.

A good amount of the PR coverage issued before the Olympics was warning businesses about the problems that could occur when staff sat at their desks logged onto the live video streams. This never materialised to a large extent, and looking at where people watched the content, the comfort of our homes was still the predominant location. A mere 3% of respondents claimed to watch/read most of their Olympics online while at work, only slightly more than those using mobile/WiFi networks.

Partly one reason for home viewing being so common, is that the events that drew the largest numbers of viewers were scheduled during the evening or weekend.

Looking at how the Olympics actually affected peoples other online activities is very intersting. One must wonder whether activities such as online shopping and other e-commerce were affected during the Olympic Games. Shops in central London claimed that the number of visitors to shops was lower than usual, so we may see a similar negative effect for e-commerce.

We asked about problems with watching video streams as if the numbers watching events at the same time were going to cause problems, video streaming would have shown the effects first. There were reports online that at busy times BBC iPlayer disabled features like live pause to help preserve the live viewing experience. A total of 27.4% claimed that their video streaming was worse than usual, with 12.2% rating it very bad. So while bad for those who perhaps were limited to watching content online only, the problems were not approaching end of the world catastrophe proportions.

Where the London 2012 Olympics really changed how major events are perceived was via the use of Twitter, with some 150 million tweets related to the event sent in a 16 day period. Twitter with its short message system is a low data volume system, unless people are also sending lots of images too, and the capacity issues relate more to twitter servers coping with the transaction rate, rather than number of bits per second.

The London Paralympic games are still to take place, between 29th August and 9th September, so the UK Internet will have a second chance to show it can cope with very large events.


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3 Responses

  1. Richard Kimber on 27 Aug 2012

    One side effect of the Olympics that hasn’t received much attention is that because engineers were transferred to London from other areas, servicing became abysmal. In a six week period I was offline for two weeks. They just didn’t have the capacity to mainatain normal services and to service the Olymics.

  2. Jay Clericus on 28 Aug 2012

    Watched a bit of the olympics on tv and not really bothered, ISP put an order with a 5 day lead time to BT before the olympics to upgrade their bandwidth capabilities. BT have sat on the order and apparently want to do nothing until after the olympics and the para olympics. Unable to watch much streaming olympics, fortunately it is still possible to download from various websites :)

  3. ScubaGirl on 18 Sep 2012

    Actually I think that you will find that many of BTO’s engineers were sent to the parts of the UK which had been hit by the floods. Since these areas had had their infrastructure wiped out, this had a raised priority. Of course I could be wrong.

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