The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has stated it has no regrets over fully embracing social media platforms such as Twitter, despite the London Olympics being marred by athletes’ ill-judged tweets and other athletes being abused online.
With social media having burst to prominence since the Beijing Games, London 2012 is the first edition of the Olympics to fully embrace these platforms. The IOC has been extremely proactive in utilising such services in a bid to tap into the youth market, but the dark side of the platforms has also been noted in recent days.
Swiss footballer Michel Morganella was sent home on Monday for an offensive tweet aimed at South Korea, while triple jumper Paraskevi Papachristou was removed from the Greek team last week for a racist comment. Meanwhile, British police on Tuesday arrested a teenager concerning the alleged abuse of Team GB diver Tom Daley on Twitter.
Despite these incidents, IOC spokesman Mark Adams said the organisation would continue to encourage the use of social media around London 2012, adding that it would probably be powerless to prevent it even if it wanted to. “As you know the IOC, the Olympics we have about 15 million social media fans and I think (local organisers) are doing something similar,” he said, according to Reuters. “To be frank, it’d be a little bit like King Canute even if we said these aren’t social media Games, because everyone’s decided they are anyway. We want to help people have a good time in social media.”
The role of Twitter at London 2012 was highlighted on Monday as US athletes launched a protest against IOC sponsorship restrictions by utilising the hashtags ‘WeDemandChange2012’ and ‘Rule40’. The IOC policy under the banner Rule 40 prevents Olympic athletes from using their names or likenesses for advertising during the Games, with the exception of promotions involving the event’s official sponsors. The rule is in effect from July 18 until August 15, three days after the closing ceremony, and is designed to prevent ambush marketing and non-partners compromising the investment made by Olympic sponsors.
However, Adams said that Twitter’s existence had not altered the rules, only the application of them. He added: “I don’t think we have any major concerns, as you know those rules, such as Rule 40, have been around for a long time before social media. Social media’s only been round for six or seven years. Clearly issues are raised more quickly but they’re still the same issues that we have to deal with, and if an athlete makes a comment which contravenes those rules as has happened, we will take action. Used in the right way, we embrace social media.”
IOC comfortable with ‘Twitter Games’