In what was billed as the first social media games, athletes took to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to share their real-time observations with the public.
While some athletes found outpourings of support, others felt the fury — from fans and in two cases, the International Olympic Committee. But positive or negative, social media let the public connect with athletes in a new way — beyond the pre-taped backstories and on-stage interviews broadcast by NBC.
Here are several of the most memorable posts made by this year's athletes and the reaction they got.
Two athletes were banned from competition for making objectionable tweets that did not reflect the "spirit of the Olympics," according to the IOC. Greek athlete Voula Papachristou was kicked out before she even left for London after tweeting a racial slur from her iPhone, and Swiss soccer player Michel Morganella was expelled for posting a threatening tweet against Koreans after Switzerland lost its match to the team from South Korea. Twitter also suspended each athlete's account.
Michael Phelps' apparent girlfriend, model Megan Rossee, set tongues wagging with this tweet on July 28: "@MichaelPhelps this probably will get lost in your tweets but since i cant text i miss you and cant wait to spend time with you for real xo."
It didn’t get lost. A later photo of Phelps and his medals caused a flood of comments from heartbroken 13-year-old girls, such as "btw I never said she wasn't pretty, cuz she is! I just don't like her with michael."
U.S. Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney's sneer after winning a silver medal for women's vault has spawned a new Internet meme, "McKayla is not impressed."
The meme has its own blog on Tumblr where Photoshop enthusiasts have posted photos of McKayla casting her now famous look of disapproval on Kim Kardashian, Mitt Romney and even against the backdrop of photos taken from Mars Curiosity rover.
The Internet loves it, but what about McKayla? On her Twitter feed, she retweeted this: "OMG THIS WEBSITE LOL @McKaylaMaroney."
Facebook is for old-timers
The Wall Street Journal has dubbed Kobe Bryant "The Olympics' Mr. Facebook." While most athletes have been using Twitter and Instagram, Bryant doesn't have either account, but he does have 13.6 million fans on Facebook. The Journal attributed Kobe's preference for Facebook and really long descriptive posts to his age — he is the oldest member of the U.S. Olympics team at 33.
The US Swim Team's "Call Me Maybe" video has been watched nearly 6 million times on YouTube, and that's the only place you can see it since NBC Olympics blocked it everywhere else.
The 3-minute video was directed by Kathleen Hersey, who took fourth in the 200-meter butterfly, and includes biggest all-time medal winner Michael Phelps (incognito in sunglasses at the start), 4-time gold medal winner Missy Franklin dancing down a bus aisle with moves worthy of a pole dancer and a towel-wrapped Ryan Lochte blowing a kiss. Likes to dislikes, this video scored 98.5 percent in likes.