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Athletes go viral with TikTok videos providing a peek into life inside Olympic village

Athletes go viral with TikTok videos providing a peek into life inside Olympic village

Footage from the Games is subject to strict copyright rules but athletes are building strong followings through daily updates on social media

Guardian staff

Last modified on Wed 4 Aug 2021 02.52 EDT

In an Olympics without crowds, athletes are becoming stars online as they use TikTok to provide a glimpse of life inside the Athlete’s Village and, for the winners, what it’s like to win a gold medal.

Although copyright rules limit what athletes can post to TikTok – both of their own performances and within Games venues – videos about the Olympics are thriving on the platform.

There have been 5.9bn views of videos under the #Olympics tag and 4.2bn under the #OlympicSpirit topic.

Aside from the official Olympics account – which has 3.4 million followers and has had some officially licensed footage go viral – the athletes themselves are building strong followings through sometimes daily updates from their Games experience.

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Diver Sam Fricker is one of the best-known athletes on the platform and the Australian athlete with the largest following. He has gained more than 1.1 million followers through videos on day-to-day life during the Olympics including, yes, the cardboard beds, but also what the food is like, the clothing, and more.

US rugby player Ilona Maher has gone viral over her thirst for her fellow Olympians in the village.

“Quick question, are you looking for a wife?” Maher whispers in one video with more than 4m views.

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Filipino skateboarder Margie Didal’s dance celebration video with 13-year-old Brazilian skateboarder Rayssa Leal after winning the silver gained millions of views. Gold medal-winning US gymnast Sunisa Lee’s dance celebrating her win went viral.

Australian canoeist Jess Fox’s recent video showing off her gold medal and explaining how athletes repair their kayaks with condoms also took off.

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While UK diver Tom Daley went viral on Instagram for knitting a pouch for his gold medal, the athlete did not share that gem on TikTok, despite having 4.3 million followers on the platform. Another user, however, posted a video on TikTok that captured Daley knitting in the stands which garnered 1.7m views.

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