Avoiding Olympics spoilers is an event all its own

To keep Olympics results a surprise, Kate O’Malley of Chelmsford avoids Facebook like a champion. She skips e-mail alerts from news organizations, silences the radio when Olympics coverage comes on, pleads with colleagues not to discuss the games in front of her.

But even that may not be enough to shut out news about Thursday’s women’s gymnastics finals until Friday evening — yes, Friday evening — when O’Malley finally sits down with her husband to enjoy the taped broadcast.

“I’m probably going to have to crawl in a hole or something,” she said Thursday, laughing. “I’m hoping that I can get through it. We’ll see.”


Suspense is an integral part of the Olympics, enthusiasts like O’Malley say. But between the increased use of social media and the half-day delay between events in London and the East Coast telecast, avoiding spoilers requires a Herculean effort this year.

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O’Malley, a human resources manager, faces a particular challenge, because her schedule requires her to wait an extra day before watching each telecast.

A 12-time marathoner, the human resources manager typically awakens at 5:30 a.m. to run. That means going to be bed long before the nightly broadcast of the Olympics ends.

O’Malley records each broadcast, and she and her husband watch it together the next evening.

Even those who tune in the same evening as that day’s competition face similar challenges if they want to sustain that sense of suspense.


That doesn’t stop some from trying.

Stephanie Guyotte of Methuen avoided Facebook, Twitter, and even the radio Tuesday until watching the women’s gymnastics team final.

“I just really tried to avoid any outside influence,” she said.

Because Guyotte works in communications, that proved a challenge. Her efforts paid off when she watched that night without knowing the outcome.

But when she posted on Facebook about the win, a friend responded that Guyotte had herself become a spoiler: The friend was taping the final for later viewing.


Friends, indeed, appear to be one of the most likely sources of news flashes, both wanted and unwanted.

Twitter users, for instance, have generated about 2.5 million tweets a day with the words “Olympics” or “#Olympics,” company spokeswoman Elaine Filadelfo said.

In the minute after the East Coast broadcast showed Michael Phelps snag his Olympic-record 19th medal, users posted 37,000 tweets mentioning the swimmer, Filadelfo said.

One person’s celebration, however, can spell disappointment for diehard fans like Jes Poplawski of Framingham.

Poplawski avoided social media and looked away when televisions at the gym she manages broadcast afternoon results from London.

But on Tuesday, during a brief visit to the gym’s Facebook page, she stumbled on a status update that the Olympic women’s team had won gold. (Like most news organizations, the Globe treats the Olympics as a news event and announces results in real time.)

Poplawski decided to compose a status update venting her disappointment, and in the process, she saw a friend’s update about Phelps’ 19th medal.

“It was still good,” she said, of watching that night’s events. “But I like the excitement and the anticipation.”

By the time the individual gymnastics competition rolled around Thursday, she had embarked on a new strategy: watching a live stream on her laptop at the gym.

The pervasiveness of online Olympics news has not been a complete surprise, Poplawski said.

“I just didn’t think it was going to be so blatantly obvious everywhere out there,” she said.

Much of the conversation about the Olympics, of course, still takes place off-line.

And for aficionados like O’Malley, risk could lurk in unlikely locations.

Thursday evening, she visited a salon for a manicure and pedicure. Televisions were showing Olympic coverage, but O’Malley did not succumb to curiosity.

“I had to keep looking away and humming and singing,” she said.

Her efforts were working, it seemed. Just before 8 p.m. Thursday, she still had not heard the gymnastics results.

Adam Sege can be reached at