The social media beast has been unleashed onto the Olympics, and now they have to rein it in.
Even though social media has been around for other Olympic games, (Beijing and Vancouver) it really did not catch on the way that is has for the London games for various reasons. China’s restrictions on Facebook, the fact that the summer Olympics are much more widely followed than the winter, as well as the astronomical growth in popularity of social media and smartphones, which will allow fans to share their Olympic experience instantly means this will be a more social media focused Olympics than in the past. However, while companies, athletes, and fans are all already Tweeting and Facebooking like crazy over the games, the UK has reminded us that there are actually a lot of restrictions on what is allowed to be shared in relation to the Olympics. Two laws, the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act and the Olympic Symbol (Protection) Act were passed a few years ago in order to protect the Olympic brand and the journalists that cover the games. The laws strictly regulate what fans, athletes, and business owners can do Facebook. Athletes will be forbidden from Tweeting photos of themselves with products that aren’t official Olympic sponsors or photos from inside the athletes’ village. Fans are banned from sharing and pictures or videos of themselves at the games, and businesses cannot Tweet or post anything with “London 2012” or images that suggest that they are sponsors if they are not official sponsors.
The main aim of the laws is to avoid any commercial exploitation with images shared online. They want to make sure that athletes aren’t accidently endorsing products. However, at a more literal look at the laws, they could potentially restrict anyone from posting pictures to Facebook of them at the games. This poses a problem because fans want to be able to go to the game and capture memories, and then share them. People have paid to travel to the games, and they want to be able to share their experiences because that’s what people do. (Do something cool, then post pictures to make others jealous) And so, as so many companies create hub’s and portals and one-stop-social media-stops for fans to connect and share with athletes, we are realizing that this might not be quite as extensive as promised.
Obviously, there is no way that officials could read every Tweet or see every photo posted from the games. Sports games are becoming a magnet for Twitter activity, in the Euro2012 tournament, they recorded 15,000 Tweets per second during peak moments of the game! However, big brother is watching. Some athletes have already gotten in trouble for their Twitter activity. Australian swimmers, Nick D’Arcy and Kenrick Monk were punished for Tweeting pictures of themselves with guns. While they were not actually doing anything illegal, the Australian Olympic Committee felt it reflected poorly on their image. They are being allowed to compete in the games but they have to return home immediately after their events. While the mass public and most fans probably won’t have to worry about these regulations, it is clear that people are serious about monitoring what gets posted on any sort of social media in relation to the Olympics brand and its values.
It is a bit dissatisfying to find out that this may not be the biggest social media Olympics ever but it certainly will be more social and digital than games ever have been before. As with any first, there are new issues to be dealt with but as time goes on the world will figure out how to deal with social media at the Olympics.