The IOC vs. social media

A recent article on Mashable about the 2012 Olympics in London again shows just how crazy the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has gotten when it comes to regulating its event.

It’s being billed as “the first social media Olympic Games” but with the IOC’s rather anti-social policies it’s questionable just how social they will be.

Athletes will not be allowed to tweet photos of themselves with
products that aren’t official Olympics sponsors or share photos or videos from inside the athletes’ village.

Fans, too, could be barred from sharing on Facebook and YouTube photos and videos of themselves enjoying the action.

Business owners will have restrictions as well. They won’t be able to lure customers by advertising with official Olympics nomenclature such as “2012 Games.” Regulators will scour Olympic venues to potentially obfuscate non-sponsor logos on objects as trivial as toilets.

The restrictions on business owners are somewhat understandable. But obfuscating logos on everything at venues down to the toilets? I think that’s taking it a bit too far.

From later in the story, the restrictions on athletes appear to be tied to the IOC’s desire to control the message. Quoting Alex Huot, the IOC’s head of social media:

We encourage athletes to share their Games experience. The Olympic
Athletes’ Hub has been in part built for this. We have created a place for them to join and connect with our millions of fans around the world and to share not just during the Olympics but long after the Olympics are gone.

Unfortunately the athletes themselves have personal brands to build as well. This works out well for the IOC, at the expense of the athletes, and certainly looks like the first step down an extremely slippery slope.

The IOC seems to be forgetting without the athletes, the Olympic Games would cease to exist. As a fan, I should be allowed to follow my favorite athlete through his/her regular social media feeds–whether or not they are at the Olympic Games. To expect me as a fan to “switch channels” to the Olympic Athletes’ Hub is ludicrous, and to prohibit the athletes from building their own personal brands during the Games is something I find nearly unconscionable.

I honestly wonder how long it will be until an alternative quadrennial/biennial athletic competition to replace the over-commercialized Olympic Games becomes a reality. I don’t think it will be too much longer before someone decides “enough is enough” and gives the IOC a swift kick in the pocketbook.

I acknowledge every sport requires rules. But do we really need to have such fascist rules about what amateur athletes tweet and blog while in competition? Until and unless it compromises the integrity of the competition itself, the IOC should keep its hands off.

One hockey season, hold the bananas

Racism takes many forms. I had honestly hoped that we’d see an end to the rather stupid and juvenile throwing of bananas onto the field as a racist statement against (primarily) athletes of African descent and/or with darker skin. If you haven’t heard much about it, it’s because mainly it happens in soccer games outside the US and Canada.

And until recently, exclusively in such games, but alas, that’s no longer the case. reported on the incident which occured in London, Ontario, Canada, during a preseason game between the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers, where Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds was targeted by a banana or a banana peel thrown on the ice at him. The COO of the Flyers owners made his statement based exclusively on the player safety issue, referring only to “an object [thrown] onto the ice” in a statement. This was followed up by this official statement from NHL Comissioner which makes even more cursory reference to what actually happened, only denouncing it as an “obviously stupid and ignorant action” which “is in no way representative of our fans or the people of London, Ontario.”

I prefer to call it what it is: flagrant racism that has no place in any sport, certainly not profesional hockey in North America. It is most unfortunate that the guilty party was not identified. I hope this person is found, and barred from further attendance of hockey games anywhere in the NHL. The consequences for flagrant hate speech which has the additional effect of endangering players need to be severe, lest this kind of hooliganism become commonplace across the US and Canada.

Never mind the dog

This bizarre story in the London Daily Mail almost defies description. Usually, when postmen feel threatened by an animal, it is a dog, typically one of the larger breeds of dog such as a mastiff, pit bull, Rottweiler, Doberman, maybe even a Great Dane.

So Kenneth Ridge and his son Bradley were quite shocked when they got a letter from the Royal Mail threatening them with suspension of mail service. On 2009-06-06 a postal worker (for some reason, referred to as both a postman and postwoman in the article, not that gender really matters here) delivering mail to the Bradleys had been attacked by the their six-month-old, seven-pound kitten Illy.

From the article:

A Royal Mail spokesman said it always treats animal attacks on postmen seriously, however minor they might appear.

‘We record about 5,000 animal attacks on our postmen and women each year with the vast majority being dogs,’ he said.

‘The member of staff suffered a very bad cut to her hand while delivering mail through the letterbox of the address.’

Having been around cats as long as I have, I find the story plausible, but still very bizarre. Then again, I’ve never been to the UK, so it’s entirely possible the domestic felines are much fiercer there.