Despite my inability to ever keep up with regular season sports, I always get hyped when the Olympics come around. I’m a competitive person at heart, so watching world class athletes put their everything into these performances makes me feel some type of way (does anyone else get emotional watching them perform?). There’s no doubt that this year’s games are unique, with the obvious being the pandemic. But something great has been created, and it is #OlympicTikTok.
This is the first time the Olympics has taken place since TikTok took off a couple years ago, and the hashtag already has over 15 million views. These aren’t just recap videos of the best athletic moments you missed. These are TikTok videos being created by the athletes themselves: they’ve become social media influencers. Before this year, I hadn't thought deeply about what it’s like to live in a compound with thousands of the strongest, fastest people on the earth because there wasn’t much access to it. Now that I’ve experienced it through my For You page, it feels like it's a reality TV show I need. Obviously, that’s not a possibility now, (maybe it can be in the future?) but that’s why these TikTok’s are doing so well—it’s the closest thing we’ve got to it. We’re seeing stadium tours, swag bag hauls (The Ralph Lauren and Skims swag look great), athletic humour, and the culture in the village. It’s like an exclusive summer camp. Here’s a roundup of my favourite #OlympicTikTok videos so far (warning— once you start watching, you may not be able to stop):
Ilona Maher from Team USA’s Rugby Sevens team is one of the most popular Olympic TikTokers and she is killing it. She’s all about those relatable videos with a dash of *Olympian*:
I am so happy she addressed this because we were all thinking about it. It gives me Olympics-meets-Love-Island energy. There’s no doubt that the tension between the strongest, hottest people in the world is through the roof, and while I know that they’re serious Olympians with a goal in mind, they’re also people just like you and me – and there’s always room for romance. Let’s hope that Ilona keeps us updated on any possible blooming flirtationships. But even though it’s fun to drool over hot athletes, Ilona keeps it real by featuring her teammates in her videos too:
I like this one because it confirms my idea about the Olympic Village being a summer camp. Now when I watch their sporting events, I’ll know this little behind the scenes fact that they all sat around together and had the team’s braiding MVP do everyone’s hair. How cute is that? Ilona made sure to hop onto the cardboard bed discourse with her girls too:
Team USA Olympic Diver Tyler Downs brought the summer crush energy back with this public confession of his love for Simone Biles:
I mean, no surprise that he is enamoured by Simone, because everyone is. But I’m intrigued by this idea of celebrity that is held even within the Village. It’s like when you see an upcoming singer you love get excited when they see Beyoncé at an awards ceremony. Simone is the Beyoncé of these Games! Prioritizing her mental health makes her even more of a legend to me than I already thought she was. She is the G.O.A.T. and one of the most talked-about athletes, and I would classify her as a celebrity. It makes me wonder if Simone stays lowkey like how big celebrities do at some events, or if she wanders around to explore what the Village has to offer.
Speaking of Village perks, did y’all know they have an entertainment centre where they can hang out with athletes from other countries?
Cody Melphy is on Team USA’s Men’s Rugby team, and he’s all about the exclusive tours. Watching his account feels like what it’s like to see your friends post Instagram stories from that vacation you weren’t able to go to. Here’s the closest we civilians will get to what it's like to walk around the Olympic Village (this one has over 19 million views!):
He also gave us a quick shot of the swag bag Team USA got:
The influencer vibes continue through the world of #OlympicTikTok with mini travel vlogs you’d see TikTokers like Charli D’Amelio post on a trip. This one by Team Great Britain’s Nicole Yeargin is great at capturing it:
We love these videos for the same reason we watch stories of influencers digging their toes into the sand in Bora Bora. As the world opens up, it’s exciting to see instances of normal life come back through things like travel videos. Yes, things look a little different because of COVID-19, such as their daily testing documented by Team Great Britain’s, Laviai Nielsen:
...but it isn’t creating a negative reaction from us. If anything, it answers our curiosities about how things are done safely while also experiencing the connection with athletes through TikTok. All of this has made me appreciate that connection that so many of us love to feel with those we look up to in pop culture.
Ilona has a message for anyone who is surprised by the impact TikTok has had on the games this year:
I know we’re seeing the highlight reel, because I’m sure they must be under lots of pressure and stress, but it’s the closest I have ever felt to the Olympics, and it’s happening during one of the most isolating periods in modern history. I’d also like to think that TikTok is an escape for them. I can't imagine how mentally draining being an Olympian can be, so hopefully these videos give them something to look forward to after a stressful day on the job. At this rate, the athletic social media influencer pool is going to keep growing, even after the Olympics— and especially when brands realize how many views this subsection of TikTok is getting.
Happy #OlympicTikTok scrolling!