I recently read an article in Wired on athlete confusion around social media publishing policies. One skier told he 35,000 Twitter followers that "because of the Olympic rules (blackout period). I will not be able to post any updates from now until March 3rd. Sorry, it bums me out too!" The update was also posted to her Facebook, showing some savvy, nice one.
Apparently, the move was made based on a faulty understanding of the International Olympic Committee’s rules on blogging and social networking. There is no Olympic rule that sets up a blackout period for athletes according to Bob Condron, the Director of Media Services for the United States Olympic Committee. “Athletes are free to blog during the Games. Twitter is just a blog that’s written 140 characters at a time. You can’t act as a journalist if you aren’t,” says Condron. “You need to do things in a first person way.”
Speedskater Nick Pearson posted on Twitter, “Due to Olympic regulations I can no longer post pics on Twitter through the Olympics.” On the left is a photo he took from his room in the athlete's village. IOC guidelines state that athletes may post photos of themselves as long as they don’t show any of the actual sporting action during the Games. On the right is a picture of the Olympic speed skating oval he took Feb 4th accompianed by this twitter post, "After all has been cleared up, pictures are a go!!!! Just nothing from the competitions or the opening ceromies." Both of the photos are linked to the originals so if one disappears we can guess what may have happened.
The IOC's concerns are about the very expensive exclusive advertising and broadcast sponsorship deals. Many of these athletes are sponsored by companies other than Olympic sponsors and photos of them in the Olympic venues or spirit may be considered 'offside'. For athletes with no major outside sponsor obligations these worries around twitter pictures and Facebook posts seem like a bit of joke for good reason, they are. No one can stop the wave of social media and this Olympics will confirm it.
Expect heavy social media activity among athletes in Vancouver. These are going to be the Twitter Olympics. On The Georgia Straight's website I found this list of about 50 Canadian athletes who tweet which stands in contrast to the situation with described in Wired. At least their article forced the US Olympic committee to clarify the situation for the athletes. The US Olympic Twitter page's recent tweets are a great example of dealing with the problem and some of the limitations of Twitter to serve customers.