Los Angeles 2024
LA 2024

LA 2024 Olympic bid gets lots of Facebook likes … from Pakistan

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PARIS (AP) — More than a million Facebook users like the idea of hosting the 2024 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Many of them, oddly enough, from Pakistan.

A report prepared for The Associated Press says most of LA’s likes have come in the past six weeks from far away from Southern California.

“The fan growth evolution for the LA2024 Facebook page does seem suspicious,” said analyst Michaela Branova, whose Prague, Czech Republic-based firm, Socialbakers, drew up the report. “Countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan suddenly spike from almost zero to tens of thousands of fans within a few days in February.”

LA campaign spokesman Jeff Millman said there was nothing suspicious about the figures. He said LA kicked off a series of Facebook advertisements starting Feb. 3. The scale and the mechanics of the advertising campaign weren’t made clear – Millman declined to divulge how much LA 2024 had spent on promotion – but he noted that Facebook ads were “more efficient in countries where there are fewer competing brands.”

He argued that it made sense to seek fans internationally.

“We are a global campaign, as the Olympic movement is global,” he said.

Socialbakers’ figures, which were commissioned by the AP, give some insight into the dynamics of both the Paris and Los Angeles’ social media campaigns.

By the end of 2016, Los Angeles had 209,000 or so likes, nearly all of which came from the United States, according to Socialbakers. Paris had 62,000 or so fans, 80 percent of which came from France.

By last week both sides’ figures had grown. Paris’ Facebook page tripled its following, but four out of five endorsements came from France, with many of the others originating in Algeria and Tunisia, former French colonies.

Los Angeles saw an explosion in support from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Indonesia, Egypt, India, Afghanistan and other low-income countries, according to Socialbakers’ research. In Bangladesh alone, the number of supporters of the U.S. Olympic bid rose from a few dozen to 113,335 in a month-and-a-half. In Pakistan, the number of supporters leapt from 55 to 99,336 over the same period.

Socialbakers’ report said that more than 700,000 of the 1 million accounts that liked LA 2024’s Facebook page had done so within the past six weeks. The surge helped LA blow past Paris (about 235,000 likes) and hit the million mark at an opportune moment. An Olympics conference started Tuesday in Denmark, the first of three events between now and September, when the International Olympic Committee is scheduled to pick one city over the other.

Socialbakers said it wasn’t working for the LA or Paris bid, and that its work was transparent.

“It’s all publicly available, taken directly from the Facebook API,” said spokeswoman Claire Wilson, referring to Facebook’s data interface.

Branova and outside experts said it was possible that a large chunk of LA’s social media support was drummed up by advertisements or other paid methods.

“It’s consistent with what you’d expect to see from paid endorsements,” said Daniel Mochon, who teaches social media marketing at Tulane University’s A. B. Freeman School of Business. “They tend to come from developing countries … You’re going to see sudden spikes that are not necessarily tied to anything external.”

Social media support has been invoked as a selling point by the LA bid, which islocked in competition with Paris for the chance to host the Summer Games. On Monday, LA 2024 released a statement crowing about how its campaign had passed the 1 million follower mark.

That was endorsed by Nathan Cowan of Seattle-based digital marketing analytics firm Rival IQ, which wasn’t involved in the report. Cowan said that while hadn’t seen the raw data, Socialbakers’ work “appears to be entirely accurate.”

Cowan echoed Socialbakers’ suspicions about LA’s numbers, noting the “extreme spike in followers” and their unusual geographic breakdown.

Paris 2024 officials declined to comment. Facebook declined comment, saying in an email that it was up to advertisers to disclose how they promoted their pages. The IOC did not offer any comment, but the group’s rules of conduct note that promotion of a city’s bid must take place “with dignity and moderation.”

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101-year-old woman wins gold medal at World Masters Games

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Man Kaur, a 101-year-old woman from India, won a gold medal at the World Masters Games by running the 100m in 74 seconds on Monday.

“I enjoyed it and am very, very happy,” Kaur told media, according to the Times of India, which added that she took up track and field eight years ago, at age 93. “I’m going to run again, I’m not going to give up. I will participate, there’s no full stop.”

Kaur sprinted alone on the track at Trusts Arena in Auckland, to audible applause and cheers from the crowd. There were two other runners in her heat, according to the New Zealand Herald, women ages 85 and 88. But they both finished in under 30 seconds, ceding the stage to Kaur for most of her race.

Kaur later danced in celebration with the medal around her neck.

The World Masters Games are a quadrennial multi-sport event, like the Olympics, but with different classifications per age group.

In track and field, there are age groups from 30-35 years all the way up to 100-and-over in Auckland. Kaur was the oldest track and field athlete competing by 11 years and thus won her age group with no competition.

Kaur is also entered in the 200m, javelin and shot put later this week.

She’s not the first centenarian to star in an Olympic sport.

Japan’s Hidekichi Miyazaki made headlines two years ago at age 105 for running 100m in 42 seconds.

In cycling, a 105-year-old Frenchman covered 14 miles in one hour in January.

A 100-year-old Japanese woman swam 1500m in 1 hour, 15 minutes, in 2015.

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Watch Simone Biles samba to Destiny’s Child on ‘Dancing with the Stars’

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Simone Biles easily advanced to the final seven on “Dancing with the Stars,” while Nancy Kerrigan was the last contestant to survive elimination Monday night.

Biles, a four-time Rio Olympic gymnastics gold medalist, danced a samba to Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” with partner Sasha Farber.

They received 35 points out of a possible 40 — with no 10s after Biles received her first 10s the previous week. It was the fourth-best score of eight couples Monday.

Judges felt their timing was off.

Kerrigan, a two-time Olympic figure skating medalist, performed with Artem Chigvintsev to En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind.”

They scored 33 points, lowest of the four women’s contestants remaining, with judges telling Kerrigan she looked unstable and tense at times. Kerrigan has been dealing with back pain and arm weakness.

“We had a lunch break, and we had sushi, and she couldn’t lift the soy sauce,” Chigvintsev said on ABC News.

The elimination came down to Kerrigan and “Glee” actress Heather Morris. Morris was cut, via a combination judges scores and fan votes, despite recording the first perfect score of the season Monday night.

The announcement drew boos from the studio crowd.

Kerrigan and Biles are looking to become the sixth Olympian to win the Mirrorball Trophy in the series’ 24 seasons, joining Kristi YamaguchiApolo OhnoShawn JohnsonMeryl Davis and Laurie Hernandez.

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