VANCOUVER, British Columbia --- What if the Miracle on Ice players had Twitter accounts?
Or if the sprinters who raised their gloved fists on the medal stand could have shared their thoughts on Facebook?
Thanks to laptops, cell phones and other new technology, social networking could be the route the next transformative Olympian uses to get the word out.
Skaters, skiers, hockey players and the reporters who cover them now have almost instant access to their fans and readers at what has long been, for better and worse, one of the most grandiose stages for message-sending.
When the torch is lit Friday, it will mark the beginning of the Twitter Olympics era -- the first games where social networking and sports collide on a global platform that only the Olympics can provide.
"I'm sure I'll be flooding tons of photos and tons of stories and glimpses from behind the scenes," said Shaun White, the defending Olympic halfpipe gold medalist. "Because, really, what an interesting and cool time to be sharing with everyone."
White is among the hundreds of athletes who have Twitter and Facebook accounts -- or spaces on similar sites -- with plans to use them over the 17-day sports festival.
They will give friends, family, fans and, yes, reporters updates on their training and competition, random musings, pictures, links to their Web sites and other peeks behind the Olympic curtain that the public can't usually see.
It will save them time on the phone, help them build their fan base and allow them to get their message out, unfiltered by the so-called traditional media. It might also serve up a bit of instant gratification when the grind of training and waiting takes its toll.
"I'm not a full addict like some people are," said American Nate Holland, one of the favorites in snowboardcross, a sport added to the Olympic program to appeal to the same, young demographic that inspired the social networking boom.
"But I like to give updates and definitely get those out to people," Holland said. "I can just Facebook 'Best course ever,' and 20 minutes later there are a ton of replies and people cheering you on. It strokes the ego a little bit."
Bob Condron, spokesman at the U.S. Olympic Committee, said Twitter posts are considered allowable by the IOC.