Live from Beijing: TikTok Takeover


Maribelle Gordon, Contributing Writer

After the 2020 Summer Olympics were rescheduled and heavily modified due to the ongoing pandemic, many athletes took to social media platforms, specifically TikTok, to document their experiences. An even larger number of Winter Olympic athletes have followed suit and opened the rest of the world up to the life of an Olympian.

Without any spectators present to boost morale or provide a sense of normalcy, the athletes of the 2020 Summer Olympics sought out TikTok as a platform for interaction with fans. Rugby player Ilona Maher and gymnast Suni Lee are just two examples of Olympians who garnered massive followings through their videos. Through participating in global TikTok trends, they both showed what it’s like to take part in the most advanced athletic competition in the world.

A week into the 2022 Winter Olympics, athletic superstars from around the globe are taking over the app yet again. There are numerous athletes you can find under hashtags such as         #WinterOlympics or #OlympicTikTok (the app itself has even installed a page for live updates under the latter). However, there are a certain few athletes that have been continuously gaining attention for their unique documentation of the behind-the-scenes of Olympic life. Here are a few athletes, and emerging TikTok stars to lookout for:

Maddie Mastro (@maddie_mastro) is an American halfpipe snowboarder who has quickly amassed almost 600,000 followers and tens of millions of likes over the past few weeks. 2022 is her second trip to the Olympics and while she has used her platform to show a variety of aspects of her daily routine, her “Get Ready with Me” videos have become especially popular. She has also documented her friendship with a fellow competitor, Australian Emily Arthur, showing an interesting insight into the interactions between countries. 

Scotty James (@scottyjames31), Australian snowboarder, has also quickly become a fan favorite. He gives sneak peeks into the athletes’ rituals and briefings, such as how and when they are tested for COVID-19, the protocols for medal ceremonies and the training before competitions. His charismatic personality has definitely played a role in his accumulation of followers, showing an increased interest in the Olympics as fans seize the opportunity  to actually get to know the athletes in a new context.

Former Olympic figure skater and current coach Adam Rippon (@adaripp) has also gained popularity, showing the perspective of someone who has both coached and competed in the events. He shows the warmups and drills of his students, details the fashion requirements and recently revealed a story about accidentally leaving his student at the training rink without the necessary credentials. Before TikTok allowed this platform to be created, these are the types of personal stories and details that the fans would never get to hear. Now, the average fan can feel like they have V.I.P. access just by watching a three minute video. 

Even five-time Olympian and sports icon Shaun White (@shaunwhite) joined in for his last Olympics and final competition before retirement. The American snowboarder already had a significant following on the app; he has recently shared many bittersweet moments of his final days as a professional snowboarder, as well as anecdotes and personal customs that have played a role in his time as a seasoned veteran of the sport and the Olympic games. 

In addition to all of the individual athletes using TikTok to document their lives at the    Olympics, many of the companies involved are also using the app for promotion through trends and inside coverage. The Olympics, NBC Sports and Team USA are all very popular accounts that post highlights, updates, Q&A’s and even memes regarding athletes from all over the world. As marketing becomes increasingly reliant on social media, it is much more common to see these large corporations taking to TikTok to promote some of the world’s biggest events. 

This takeover on TikTok has attracted many people to the Olympics, whether for the first time or as a reignition of excitement. Fans enjoy this personal, behind-the-scenes experience of the Olympics, and knowing what all goes into making these events happen has sparked     interest for many. 

From room tours to clothing hauls to Spotify playlists, TikTok has provided athletes with a multitude of ways to connect more with fans than ever before. What started out as a way for Olympians to cope with the biggest event of their lifetime being upended by COVID-19 turned out to be a unique way for professional athletes to show fans the ins and outs of their unusual lives. The platform has allowed fans to have a more personal relationship with their favorite athletes and has presented them with a new, more relatable perspective of the global superstars.