London Social Media Nightmares
No one has ever said that being an Olympian is easy. Training schedules aside, you're tasked with the burden of having to represent an entire nation. Previously, athletes were only accessible through interviews. London 2012 has already been dubbed the social media Olympics, and the Twitter has been a major vehicle for scandal in the first week of the current games. Two athletes banned from the games for their Tweets, and there are nearly 2 weeks. Check out the top Twitter scandals associated with the 30th Olympiad in London 2012.
Greek triple-jumper Voula Papachristou made history July 25th, 2012 as the first Olympian to ever be banned from the games for a Tweet, though she's already not the last. Early last week, Papachristou published a racist tweet, stating “So many Africans in Greece at Least West Nile Mosquitos Will Eat Homemade Food.” The world was shocked, and within 3 days the Greek Olympic Committee issued a statement deeming her social media content “contrary to the values and ideals of the Olympic movement.” The athlete was officially banned from competing in the upcoming Olympics due to her tasteless Tweet.
Papachristou returned to her Twitter account to issue an apology, stating she never had racist intent but simply had acted in poor taste. The 23 year-old athlete has done little to repair her image in interviews since the first social media scandal of the London 2012 Olympics, openly criticizing her punishment as “highly excessive.”
Emotions always run high in sports, but a Swiss soccer player didn't learn from prior lessons on making racist comments on Twitter. Swiss soccer player Michel Morganella became the second athlete banned from the 30th Olympiad after a racist tirade on his Twitter following his team's loss to South Korea July 29th. Morganella's comments included that he wished the South Korean team would “go burn.” The Swiss Olympic delegation acted within hours, stating that Morganella's content was “highly offensive” and in direct violation of Olympic ethics code. Unlike Papachristou, Morganella seems interested in salvaging his image, and has both publically accepted the ruling and apologized.
US Womens' soccer goalie Hope Solo has always been outspoken, and hearing her former teammate Brandi Chastain acting in her new role as commentator was apparently the last straw. After Chastain criticized the US team's defensive strategy Solo took to Twitter to rip into Chastain, tweeting a series of criticisms that began “Its 2 bad we cant have commentators who better represent team&know more about the game.” Chastain remained netural under attack, later stating that she was simply trying to be a journalist. Some commentators consider it an even bigger scandal that Solo wasn't officially punished for the outburst. There is speculation that Solo deliberately ditched her filter for a fresh surge of PR – her autobiography is scheduled for release August 14th.
Blame it on Twitter
Enthusiastic fans were blamed for a broadcast meltdown during a men's cycling race Sunday, July 29th at the London Olympics. Each bike was fitted with a GPS system, allowing BBC journalists to provide live commentary on the race and camera crews to get the best coverage. There was such a flurry of Tweets, however, that the network failed and the GPS devices weren't operately properly. The outcome of the race wasn't affected, but the BBC's coverage was. Mark Adams, a spokesperson for the games seemed confident this Olympics Twitter scandal might not be the last, either. In an official statement he urged attendees to tweet and text only when necessary. We'll see how well that one works out: Twitter blogged that there were more Olympics Tweets sent before the Opening Ceremonies than during the entire Beijing Olympics in 2008.
While a lack of social media rules at the London 2012 Olympics has lead to a series of scandals, one social media rule is causing even more ruckus. Rule 40, part of the official guidelines given to athletes at the 30th Olympiad, prohibits participants from mentioning brands in social media. Brands can tweet about athletes, but all proceeds go to fund the Olympics. Some members of the games feel the rule cuts into their ability to make a living. Dozens of athletes have used Twitter as a tool for protest, using the hashtags #Rule40 and #WeDemandChange. Members of the US Track and Field team, including frontrunners for gold, have been particularly vocal about expressing distaste for the policy.
The surprising explosion of Twitter scandal at the Olympics was addressed directly by athletic manager Evan Morganstein, who stated “Social media has done the one thing...never expected. It gave athletes all over the world the ability to communicate. That's got to keep them up at night.” The role of Twitter as a communication tool for elite athletes probably won't be changing anytime soon. No one knows for sure whether Rule 40 will be invited back to the 2014 Winter games in Sochi, Russia. However, after the series of social media scandals that have emerged from the 30th Olympiad, we can be sure that regulations on social media for Olympians could be a major player in the future.
Image credit: freedigitalphotos.net/Salvatore Vuono