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 Violation of these guidelines may result in athletes being withdrawn from the games without notice and the offending post being removed.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 it does seem a bit ironic that the IOC are protecting the Olympic brand from those who make it valuable – their own athletes!
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 I imagine a number will be put off. 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 – that’s marketing and press; 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.
I think the IOC need to think a little more carefully about these rules, and remember the Olympics are a celebration – let’s have a great time celebrating the world’s biggest sporting event – let’s ensure we have some fantastic friendly, encouraging tweets.