As the 2012 Summer Olympics approach, the International Olympic Committee is taking a huge step in loosening its restrictions on social media usage for athletes and the volunteers helping to put the events together.
“Allowing the athletes to use social media is a win/win situation,” says Sidney Eve Matrix, associate professor in the Department of Media and Film at Queen’s University. “Not only does it get everyone excited about the Olympics, but it also drives spectatorship and fandom.”
The social media controls have been in place since 2000, when security concerns, privacy of athletes and the need to protect copyright were cited as reasons to crack down on the possibility of non-sanctioned communications. Sponsors pay a huge amount to secure the broadcast rights to the Games.
The IOC’s decade-long hesitancy to allow those involved in the Games to communicate with fans and otherwise publish Olympics-related material online is weakening. Platforms like Facebook, Google+ and others are seeing a loosening of the rules similar to what happened around personal athlete blogs, which have been allowed since 2010.
Volunteers for the Games were previously prevented from using any social media in regards to the Olympics.
However, this year the IOC has decided to relax some of these rules for the 70,000 volunteers involved.
According to the IOC 2012 guidelines, volunteers and athletes are allowed to use social media websites like Twitter and Facebook. However, any comments or postings must be in a “first-person, diary-type format” and not come close to emulating the “role of a journalist” by commenting on separate events.
In any of their postings, they must also avoid mentioning:
Details of their specific location,
Media of backstage areas
Information about participants
Detailed online discussions
In addition, they cannot report on any “accredited persons, or disclose any information which is confidential or private in relation to any other person or organization,” limiting the information to personal, non-specific details only.
In places where broadcast rights have not been sold, the IOC will also provide live coverage through its official Youtube channel for free, accessible on smartphones and other online-capable devices.
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