Will Social Media Become a Hurdle for Olympic Athletes?

Olympians & Social MediaTonight the London 2012 Olympic Games finally get underway with the opening ceremony estimated to attract 4billion viewers worldwide. Many of these viewers will presumably take to various social media outlets to share their thoughts, and send messages of support to their teams. Unfortunately, the athletes probably won’t respond to it.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has released a four-page social media policy for competitors, instructing them on how they should use the likes of Twitter and Facebook during the games. Under the guidelines athletes are banned from uploading posts about the games as they happen, cannot publicly comment on the activities of other participants, are restricted on how they use the word “Olympic” in their posts, and forbidden from using the Olympic logo (the five rings) in any posts or images. Violation of these guidelines may result in athletes being withdrawn from the games without notice and the offending post being removed.

Now, I understand that given the reach and influence of social media, there is a need to protect the Olympics from unsporting behaviour - especially in light of the recent incidents (you may have noticed that Greece are suddenly short on triple jumpers). But am I the only one thinking that by protecting the Olympic brand from the athletes taking part, the IOC may be taking things a bit too far?

The IOC have said they actively encourage the athletes to use social media during the games, but by issuing so many rules on what can and can’t be said, they’re making the process fraught with peril. I imagine many will not update their online profiles for fear of having their Olympic dreams ended, and having to hand in their uniforms (though that may not be a concern for the Spanish team!)

In their bid to make 2012 a “social media Olympics” the IOC has created an “Olympic Hub” that brings approved social media and online content together in one place. But social media isn’t just about finding the official line on things; it’s about being involved, getting that personal response to events and making people feel like they’re a little bit closer to their idols. It’ll be hard for athletes to broadcast that sort of passion without being able to say what’s going on, and uploading a picture of it.

Banning the use of the Olympic rings in athlete’s posts is another thing I feel will dampen the Olympic hype. The athletes who we’ll cheer on from the stands or from our sofas have been dreaming of this competition for years. They’ve trained relentlessly and beat countless others to be in the position they’re in now. This is their moment, and for the next four weeks the only reason those five rings hang proudly across Tower Bridge is because of them. The rings are a badge of honour not a company commodity, and athletes should be able to display them proudly to the world. They’ve earned it.

So ease up on the rules a bit IOC, and remember the next four weeks are about celebrating all of the things our nations excel in, and not about rapping athletes over the knuckles for a harmless tweet or two. However, with that being said, let’s ensure the tweets are kept friendly shall we?

Come on team GB!

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