/ 4 August 2008

Blogging athletes permitted at Olympics

The Beijing Olympics not only stand for internet restrictions — there is also a new freedom on the internet as Olympic athletes can talk about the restrictions and other issues on their own blog on the world wide web.

The Olympic Charter prohibits any journalistic work by athletes, but since the Turin Winter Games in 2006 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been forced to acknowledge a new era and allow blogging during the Olympics.

Under special IOC rules, the blog is not to contain interviews, photos and moving pictures from areas reserved for accredited people. A photo of the athlete is allowed, but not taken in an Olympic area.

That was unheard of in 1992 in Barcelona, where the opening ceremony almost ended in scandal when American stars brought cellphones along and relayed their impressions live to their home country.

It was a blatant violation of Olympic rules, but then IOC boss Juan Antonio Samarach issued a reprimand instead of kicking the athletes out, which would have been possible as well.

But nowadays the IOC must acknowledge that young people use modern communications techniques, including blogs.

Once several athletes had their blog in Turin 2006, the IOC executive board drew up rules to allow officially athletes their blogs while preserving the rights of the accredited media and the IOC sponsors who were paying big money to be part of the Games.

”The IOC considers blogging as a legitimate form of personal expression and not as a form of journalism,” the rules say.

”Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, blogs … should take the form of a diary or journal and, in any event, should not contain any interviews with, or stories about, other accredited persons.

”In any event, blogs containing Olympic content should at all times conform to the Olympic spirit and the fundamental principles of Olympism as contained in the Olympic Charter, and be dignified and in good taste.”

Blogging falls under the rules from eight days before the Games until three days after the closing ceremony. The IOC guidelines only apply for the Beijing Games and not future Olympics.

Within the guidelines given, blogs could be one way for athletes to speak freely about sensitive issues such as human rights in China.

IOC president Jacques Rogge did not explicitly mention the blogs, but did reiterate on Saturday that athletes are able to speak freely in Beijing within the rules of the Olympic Charter. ”The athletes have the right to freely express themselves. If they want to criticise China, they can do it at home or in China in a public place.”

The charter prohibits demonstrations of a political, religious or racial nature in all Olympic areas, including the athletes’ village. ”The reason is that in the Olympic village there are 205 national Olympic committees. The Olympic village is a microcosm of the world.” — Sapa-dpa