Past The Press Box

Olympic social media & blogging policy is hard to understand

As is the case with these huge global events—Olympics, World Cup, etc—the media polices in place are extremely strict and breaking them usually results in dismemberment. So, watch out bloggers. The IOC released its Blogging Guidelines for the 2010 Games (PDF) and they are bit cumbersome, especially confusing to the athletes planning on sharing an inside take with their fans.

Unlike professional sports leagues where there are bans on when athletes can use social media sites, athletes are free to blog at their own discretion, as long as they don't break any rules. One of those: don't act like a journalist.

There are some restrictions on what athletes can do online during the Olympics. According to the IOC Blogging Guidelines for the 2010 Games, athletes and other accredited people must keep their posts confined to their personal experiences. “You can’t act as a journalist if you aren’t,” says [Director of Media Services for the United States Olympic Committee] Bob Condron. “You need to do things in a first person way.”

Rule 49 of the Olympic Charter says that “Only those persons accredited as media may act as journalists, reporters or in any other media capacity.”

Umm, what? In this day and age, what constitutes being a journalist? What if you inject any journalistic post with a first-person voice? Such as "I just spent some time kickin it with Bode Miller and he said he did not close the bar last night, only stayed out until 12:45 and feels relatively good to go today." Does that count as journalism or does it fall under the 'diary' format the IOC is looking for from non-accredited athletes and bloggers?

Other guidelines that are worth noting:

In any event, blogs of Accredited Persons containing Olympic Content should at all times conform to the Olympic spirit and the fundamental principles of Olympism as contained in the Olympic Charter, and be dignified and in good taste.

On video:

The dissemination of moving images of the Games through any media, including display on the Internet, is a part of the IOC’s intellectual property rights. No sound or moving images (including sequences of still photographs which simulate moving images) of any Olympic events, including sporting action, Opening, Closing and Medal Ceremonies or other activities which occur within any zone which requires an Olympic identity and accreditation card (or ticket) for entry


Accredited Persons may feature still pictures taken of themselves within Accredited Zones provided that such pictures do not contain any sporting action of the Games or the Opening, Closing or Medal Ceremonies of the Games. It is the Accredited Persons’
responsibility to obtain the consent of other persons appearing in any pictures which may featured in accordance with this Section. Still pictures may not be reproduced in a
sequential manner, so as to simulate, in any way, moving images.

In summary, the IOC really wants almost all of your exposure to the Olympics to be coming through NBC, in all its puff-piece glory. Condron later said "These are going to be the Twitter Olympics" and that may be the case for some of the athletes but these heavy restrictions will have an effect on how much information and analysis is shared via social media than would be the case with looser restrictions. Hint: it'll be less.

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The American Sportswriter_