The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has a new champion Tweeter.
Step forward Angela Ruggiero, Olympic ice hockey gold medallist, Harvard MBA and vice-chair of the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission.
The 35-year-old American, who has been an IOC member since 2010 and whose birthday falls on Sunday (January 3), has attained the top step of the podium not through explosive growth in her Twitter following, which is up just 5,000, or two per cent, since we last took soundings in December 2014, however.
Rather Ruggiero has reached the pinnacle as a consequence of the departure from the world’s most powerful sporting club of its previous Twitter champ – one Joseph “Sepp” Blatter, suspended President of FIFA, world football’s governing body.
Ruggiero, with more than a quarter-of-a-million Twitter followers, has a comfortable lead over this year’s runner-up, Gerardo Werthein of 2018 Summer Youth Olympic Games host Argentina, who is the only other current IOC member with over 100,000 Twitter followers.
In third place, still, lies Mikaela Cojuangco Jaworski, the IOC member from another nation where Spanish is a major language, the Philippines, with 85,700 followers.
Cojuangco Jaworski, in turn, is well ahead of another Olympic gold medallist, Swedish high jumper Stefan Holm, in fourth place. Holm is now the IOC’s top European Tweeter with 45,400 followers.
The full Top 20 table, based on readings taken on December 29, is as follows (2014 placings in brackets):
1. (2) Angela Ruggiero
2. (4) Gerardo Werthein
3. (3) Mikaela Cojuangco Jaworski
4. (6) Stefan Holm
5. (5) Hayley Wickenheiser
6. (7) Kirsty Coventry
7. (8) Tony Estanguet
8. (-) Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah
9. (9) Camiel Eurlings
10. (10) Sergey Bubka
11. (11) Sheikh Tamim
12. (14) Prince Feisal
13. (13) Claudia Bokel
14. (12) Alexander Zhukov
15. (15) James Tomkins
16. (17) Marisol Casado
17. (16) Barbara Kendall
18. (18) Danka Barteková
19. (-) Nicole Hoevertsz
20. (20) Richard Peterkin
There is an air of stability about the table, although most Tweeting members have managed to increase their personal followings over what has been a testing year for the international sports movement.
Prominent sporting power broker Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, President of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) and FIFA Executive Committee member, has burst into the top ten with well over 10,000 followers.
I have based this on two accounts, though neither is authenticated by Twitter’s blue tick: @alahmadsabah, which has close to 4,000 followers (though not a single Tweet); and @ahmed_f_alsabah, well over 7,000 followers and in Arabic. Some Twitter users may follow both accounts and, hence, be double-counted.
The ascent to 19th place in the table of Nicole Hoevertsz, a former synchronised swimmer from Aruba, takes the number of women in the Top 20 to nine, up from eight last time.
Big changes may be ahead and Ruggiero’s reign could well prove short-lived.
Next summer will bring an infusion of new talent onto the Athletes’ Commission, the repository already of many of the most active IOC Tweeters.
As insidethegames reported last week, nine of the 24 candidates for the four slots available already have more than 1,000 Twitter followers.
One – Indian badminton star Saina Nehwal – has well over a million followers; another – Argentinian basketball player Luís Scola – more than 400,000.
Should those two succeed in being elected IOC members, the 2016 table would have a very different look, conceivably with two Argentinians in the top five.
The new President of the troubled International Association of Athletics Federations, Sebastian Coe, would also go straight into the top ten were he to become an IOC member. He currently has 101,000 followers.
Given the ever-growing importance of social media as a communication tool, especially for the young, I have now attempted a similar Twitter ranking of 35 Olympic International Federations. Here it is:
5. Ice hockey
20. Table tennis
33. Modern Pentathlon
I have aimed to locate each International Federation's English language Twitter account. However, since a number of International Federations have multiple accounts, it is possible I may have been guilty in places of not comparing like with like. For that reason, I have given the account names in the right-hand column. I limited the exercise to one account per IF because of the likelihood of duplification.
To give some idea of the judgement calls I had to make, I noticed a tendancy among Winter Olympic International Federations to have different accounts for different disciplines.
As well as the alpine skiing account I included, the International Ski Federation (seemed to have a ski-jumping account with over 12,000 followers and a Nordic combined account with nearly 3,000. Skating, similarly, had a speed skating account, with some 1,250 followers, in addition to figure skating.
In the case of golf, I selected the account devoted to golf at the Olympics, in particular Rio 2016 where the sport will make its Olympic return, rather than the official International Golf Federation account, which had fewer than 600 followers.
With more flux likely in the Olympic sports programme in years to come – and an imperative for the Movement to keep young people interested in sport in the digital age - it will be interesting to observe how these rankings evolve.
This time around, the sports of rugby, ice hockey, field hockey and wrestling were higher than I would have predicted; by contrast, aquatics, tennis, fencing and golf were lower.