The 10 best social media moments of the Rio Olympics

Did the 2016 Rio Olympics showcase the best use of social media of any sporting event in history? Suzie Shaw takes us through some gold medal moments...

2016 was heralded to be the social Olympics, as penetration and usage of social media has exploded since 2012. So has it shaped up in the way we expected?

Suzie Shaw - MD - We Are Social

In the main, yes; big medal moments have been marked at point break speed, characters have risen to the top and visual stories have been told.

Here are the top 10 most remarkable moments on Australian social.


In addition to winning the triple treble, the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt, gave us more than enough to position him as the most famous face of the Olympics. Not only did he scoop an unfair amount of metal, he also put on his characteristically cheeky performance playing for the cameras, from his infamous sideways smile for the camera from way out in front in the 100m sprint, to his rhythmic warm up ahead of the 200m final.

Given his dominance at the games, it feels unlikely this will be his last Olympics.

ellen degeneres usain bolt suzie shaw we are social rio olympics

Swimming stays on top

While Australia’s performance in the pool didn’t eclipse the medal tally of past Olympics, swimming remains Australia’s most engaging Olympic sport. It tops Google search rankings in the region and generated a significant volume of Olympic conversation in Australia.

As a nation we love our swimming, so let’s see if we can ride the wave of this interest to greater success in Tokyo.

Michael Phelps, you’re my hero

Phelps remains the subject of the world’s admiration as he won more golds at this Olympics than many countries, with a career total of 23. In fact, if he were a country, he would be 39th in the world on the all-time gold medal table.

But the story that really captured the minds of the internet was the juxtaposition of the image of the Singaporean boy, Joseph Schooling, meeting his childhood hero Phelps, and then just eight years later as he stood beside him to collect his gold in the 100m butterfly.michael phelps suzie shaw we are social rio olympics


Led by Osea Kolinisau, Fiji’s rugby team won the country its first-ever medal— a gold, no less—over Great Britain in the Rugby Sevens’ final.

The event generated 387,179 social engagements, making #Fiji the top trending Google search globally and caused residents on the South Pacific island nation to close restaurants and shops to tune in for the country’s winning moment. Fiji has since declared a public holiday in honour of its historic victory.

fiji breaks history and the internet suzie shaw we are social

Speak not of her name

American Three-time Olympian Corey Cogdell-Unrein won a bronze medal in Rio for Trapshooting. Sadly, many publications reported this fact by replacing her name with the name of her football-playing husband.

Yet again, another sorry example of unconscious bias crashing into world consciousness.

women have names use them suzie shaw we are social rio olympics

World’s most useless job

The world shared liberally, the image of a bored looking life guard aside the Olympic pool as we all identified with the occasional futility of life’s work.olympics swimming life guard suzie shaw we are social rio olympics

Women’s Rugby Sevens

The first time the sport has featured in the Games and Australia’s women’s team came out of the blocks strongly picking up the gold, beating New Zealand.

It’s a shame our performance at home this weekend against the All Blacks was not as strong.

rugby sevens suzie shaw we are social rio olympics

America’s new sweetheart

U.S. gymnast Simone Biles not only won over TV audiences with her incredible signature move—she’s also blowing up social media.

After helping lead the U.S. gymnastics team to a win against Russia, Biles won the gold medal in the individual all-around competition on Thursday—netting 494,982 social engagements.

She has also managed to attract the fandom of social-crack himself, Zac Efron.

Spirit of the Olympics alive and well in Korea

North and South Korean gymnasts at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games have shown the world a brief moment of unity, in the form of a selfie. Lee Eun-ju of South Korea and Hong Un-jong of the North took a quick smiling snapshot during the training period before the start of the Games.

The pictures of the two women have been widely praised as capturing the Olympic spirit.
North and South Korea are technically still at war with each other.

There is hope for world peace yet.

spirit of the olympics is alive and well we are social suzie shaw rio olympicsUSA wins gold…. in shooting

Oh the irony of the US picking up the first of its heavy medal count in — wait for it — shooting.

On the back of a violent 2016, with gun crime and gun control sitting high on the public agenda, yet again the world is left wondering why America is so hell-bent on maintaining its right to bear arms. Although it’s hindering public safety, it’s obviously advantageous to the marksmanship of the nation.

Suzie Shaw is the managing director of We Are Social


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.