POSTED: August 2nd 2012
NEIL WILSON: The Twitter Olympics
THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications
August 2 - The Games of the 30th Olympiad may be forever remembered as the 1st Games of the Twittersphere. Chinese swimmers, Michael Phelps and the
grand-daughter of the Queeen of England have not had so much attention as the social networking site that is rampaging through the Olympic movement.
Two competitors have been thrown off their teams because of what they have tweeted. A teenager who abused diver Tom Daley failure to win a medal has been arrested and given a public harassment warning.
Even Hope Solo, the US soccer player, has been rebuked for tweeting her feelings on a commentary on her match.
As far from London as the US West Coast, the Los Angeles correspondent of a serious British newspaper had his Twitter account suspended because he dared to upset the all-mighty NBC with his comments about its pretence that its coverage of the London Games was live.
Closer to the Olympic Family, the IOC remains comfortable with the new phenomenum. To a point. National Olympic committees are pushing it as hard as they can. Go into Team GB, the website of the British, and you can connect with up to 300 tweets from its officials
and athletes. One of the most prolific is its chief executive Andy Hunt.
All fine and good, just so long as you tweet the most banal,
non-controversial nonsense. Rant or rave, criticise or complain, and the ultimate sanction is expulsion, as two Greeks found. Worst of all, thank a corporate sponsor who may have helped you with tens of thousands of dollars over the previous four years but is not an IOC/LOCOG official sponsor and the dogs of war will descend.
Sanya Richards-Ross has started a campaign, appropriately on Twitter, to have that changed. She wants the IOC’s Rule 40, which bans all non-official sponsors’ mentions or product placement, revoked. The campaign was trending on Twitter. The IOC was forced to hit back to defend its multi-million dollar sponsors.
Richards-Ross is right. It is nonsense that great tennis players may wear the names and logos of their sponsors at Wimbledon but three weeks later at Wimbledon for Olympic competition cannot. If traditional and very Establishment Wimbledon which has its own corporate sponsors can accept it, why not the hidebound IOC?
Tweets are public expressions. There are laws of the land to protect us from the racist and the idiot. There is no excuse for the IOC, NOCs and NBC to act as quasi-Boards of Censors. The Olympics in London is ringed with missile batteries, aircraft carriers and enough troops to start a small war. But it is not the IOC’s place to act as Big Brother. Let the athletes speak and share the Olympic proceeds. After all, it is for them the Games are held.
NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.
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