Mon, September 23, 2013

Twitter, not steroids, staining Olympics

By BOB MACKIN, Special to QMI Agency


Switzerland's Michel Morganella was expelled from the 2012 London Summer Olympics after posting a racist tweet. (PAUL ELLIS/AFP)



LONDON - Four days into the London Olympics, there are more Twitter controversies than doping controversies.

On the steroids side, an Albanian weightlifter has already been sent home while Uzbek gymnast failed a drug test on the weekend and awaits word a second test.

Twitter counters with the Greek triple jumper who was kicked off her national team two days before the Opening Ceremony and on Monday, a Swiss soccer player met the same fate. They both made comments deemed inappropriate on Twitter. A British journalist in Los Angeles found his Twitter account closed after a complaint from the Games' biggest broadcaster. Several American athletes are fighting back, via the social network, at the International Olympic Committee's Games-time sponsorship restrictions.

Chinese authorities kept a tight grip on the Internet during Beijing 2008, but social media exploded in time for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. London 2012 has taken it to a new level, even including social media in the Opening Ceremony.

For the IOC, there is no looking back.

"We have about 15 million social media fans, we're encouraging people to take part in social media," said IOC spokesman Mark Adams.

American track and field athletes took to Twitter with messages bearing the hashtags #WeDemandChange2012 and #Rule40 to oppose the IOC rule that forbids athletes from endorsing non-IOC sponsors for a month while the Olympic Village is open. It is not uncommon for athletes to be sponsored by companies that compete with IOC sponsors.

"Those athletes lucky enough to have a high profile can work with their sponsors throughout four years have one month where they cannot actually do that," Adams said. "What we're trying to do is actually help those athletes who don't have high profiles and those countries that don't have high profiles, were trying to protect money that comes into the Olympic movement."

Twitter: @bobmackin