Social Media: Olympic Sized Blunders

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The 2012 Summer Olympics kicked off on Friday July 27th with an opening ceremony that highlighted the modern day value of social media and technology. Over 10,000 athletes have been representing their countries in front of a worldwide audience, all with the same goal in mind: to win a gold medal. Throughout their journey to Olympic fame, athletes have been keeping their fans and spectators in the loop with the use of social media outlets, one of the most popular being Twitter.

However, for some athletes, the dreams of competing in the 2012 Olympics were cut short when their tweets did not adhere to the IOC Social Media, Blogging and Internet Guidelines.

Triple Jumper Voula Papachristou made headlines when she was expelled from the Greek Olympic Team for a racist tweet. The gold medal hopeful was set to participate in her first Olympics; instead she became the first athlete to be banned because of content she posted on Twitter. Later on, Papachristou issued an apology using the same social media outlet that placed her in hot water, Twitter.

Swiss soccer player Michel Morganella is the second athlete to be expelled from the Games for a tweet. The post insulted the South Korean soccer team, to whom the Swiss lost a day earlier. Not only did his actions on Twitter affect him and his teammates’ chances in the London Games, but Morganella was also stripped of his accreditation of participation in future Olympics.

According to the IOC Guidelines, both athletes broke the following rule:

“Postings, blogs and tweets should at all times conform to the Olympic spirit and fundamental principles of Olympism as contained in the Olympic Charter, be dignified and in good taste, and not contain vulgar or obscene words or images.”

The London Games being the first Olympics with widespread social media integration means there is near-global awareness of what Olympic athletes are saying, doing, and thinking in real-time. Social media helps athletes everywhere connect with fans and followers in a more direct and personal way. Yet this also puts high-profile athletes’ communication under a huge microscope, with potential backlash lurking around every Tweet.

Certainly Papachristou and Morganella aren’t the first professional athletes to be disciplined because of content posted on Twitter.  An array of athletes in the NBA, NFL and even high school, have been held accountable for their tweets.  All because athletes and celebrities are held to a higher standard than most people – and they should be. They are in the limelight and what they say is projected to millions, especially their impressionable youth fans.

Twitter will continue to be a place where athletes will express their opinions, beliefs and thoughts, in 140 characters or less. However, I am hoping to see that the other Olympic participants use this social media outlet to fulfill the 2012 Olympic Motto: Inspire a Generation.

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