This is the first time I ever heard of people being threatened for blogging.
September 2, 2000 6:51 PM   Subscribe

This is the first time I ever heard of people being threatened for blogging. Rule 59 of the IOC code states that an Olympic athlete is not permitted to record his thoughts of his Olympic experience and have it posted on the Internet. Doing so would be tantamount to an athlete acting as a journalist. And that is grounds for being thrown out of the Games.
posted by Steven Den Beste (18 comments total)
And then we find out why:

According to Olympics organizers, the purpose of the rule is to keep the athletes from using a Web site to break news about their themselves or their fellow athletes. The organizers are taking every precaution they can to ensure that their broadcast partners, which have paid $1.32 billion for exclusive TV rights, don't get scooped by the Net.

My heart bleeds. I'd like to see a court test (though it's not clear what court would have jurisdiction -- US or Aussie?). I wonder if anyone will flaunt the rule? Apparently a lot of the athletes already have blogs.

posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:01 PM on September 2, 2000

Wow, I hope Ted's Olympic Training Log isn't going to violate this rule. I had the feeling he was going to continue updating his blog after the Olympics begin.
posted by mathowie at 7:48 PM on September 2, 2000

>>don't get scooped by the Net...<<

Given that NBC is planning on a tape delay of anywhere from 18 to 24 hours or more for EVERY EVENT, I get the feeling they're going to get scooped by everything from the Net to newspapers to carrier pigeons no matter what.

posted by aaron at 9:52 PM on September 2, 2000

The last time that an Olympics was held in a signficantly different time zone than the US, all other news organizations in the US were prevented from reporting something until the TV networks reported them first. Remember, all those reporters from the newspapers have to get credentials, and the IOC can summarily remove the credentials and eject any reporter who doesn't follow the rules.

Of course, that doesn't prevent those of us who are net-savvy from accessing newspapers in Melbourne, or accessing the BBC, neither of which I suspect will be bound by those limitations.

The fact is that like so many others, they're trying to hold back the technological tide with their bare hands, and they won't succeed. In about three days they're going to realize that it's hopeless, and give up.

posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:53 PM on September 2, 2000

Of course this would never fly in the U.S. because of protected speech, but I'm wondering how it all works out internationally?

Is there a similar protection of speech in Australia? Are participants covered by the laws of their own countries? It all sounds very sketchy. I'd love to see a court challenge too.

posted by frykitty at 11:38 PM on September 2, 2000

Actually, I think this is more of a "rights" issue, as in "broadcast rights". Sort of like whatever clause there was preventing the Survivor folks from revealing the winner.
posted by owillis at 12:26 AM on September 3, 2000

Atheletes participating in an Olympic Event have to follow the rules set up by the Olympic Committee. This is very similar to TOS agreements in Geocities or other places.

All these IOC "information" rules are very similar to their drug policy. You just have to play by the rules. They also banned an American athelete from "openly driniking" a sort of "energy water" because it was not approved (or made by a Sponsor).

BTW, I always wondered, do the atheletes get any money from IOC for winning the medals? What does IOC do with all the money it generates from the rights fees and sponsorship fees? Didn't the Aussie tax payers pay for all the stadiums and the Olympic Park? Did IOC help them with the costs of building the new stadium and associated facilities?
posted by tamim at 12:39 AM on September 3, 2000

The last time that an Olympics was held in a signficantly different time zone than the US, all other news organizations in the US were prevented from reporting something until the TV networks reported them first.

If you live near to the Canadian border and receive CBC, then that isn't a problem as there are no such restrictions here in the Great White North. I also believe that CBC holds as much of the events live as possible, no matter what the time zone.

Ahh, I have fond memories of waking up at 4am to watch the hockey games in Nagano.
posted by mkn at 1:16 AM on September 3, 2000

Pardon my French, but the IOC is possibly one of the most corrupt, venal and twattish organisations in the world. It makes the Catholic Church look like amateurs at intrigue. Its regulations, almost as a matter of course, would be laughed out of court, were it not that the IOC's greedy executive scum wield a mesmeric influence over national governments.

And I'll probably not pay that much attention to this year's games. Not because of the time difference -- I remember waking at silly hours for the Seoul Olympics -- but because since Atlanta, and then Salt Lake City, received the nod of the IOC, I've grown to loathe them as a commercial gravy train. The participants and the general public are increasingly sidelined in favour of corporate sponsorship and media interests: that said, I'll be cheering on a friend of mine who's in the UK athletics team... Go Boz.
posted by holgate at 6:45 AM on September 3, 2000

As odd as it may sound, I'm not so sure that this would fail a First Amendment test. The First Amendment says that the government can't restrict speech.

But what we have here is contract law, and silence clauses are completely legal between private parties. I am, for instance, restricted from discussing certain things which I learned while working for my last employer; I signed a contract, and in return for certain considerations (like salary and stock options) I promised not to reveal that information. That's perfectly legal. I signed the contract voluntarily and am now bound by its provisions. Such a silence clause could not be imposed on me involuntarily, but that's not what actually happen. I signed freely and of my own will, and the contract is enforceable.

So it is here: those athletes are signing a private agreement with the Olympic committee where they promise not to do certain things in exchange for the privilege (for it's not a right) of participating in the games. I think that's legal, even here in the US.

posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:39 AM on September 3, 2000

Steven Den Beste wrote above:
"In about three days they're going to realize that it's hopeless, and give up."
More like they will realize it's hopeless and proceed to sue everybody in sight!

posted by quonsar at 10:02 AM on September 3, 2000

...silence clauses are completely legal between private parties. Too true, this cuts to the heart of the matter. And how I wish I could have a little bit more respect for the Olympics as an organization of international cooperation, rather than as prepacked TV goo.

Is it scooping? Or is it that NBC (in the US) wants to have exclusive rights to the broken hearts and legs of the athletes. I think Atlanta demonstrated that the Olympics is mostly sacchrine crap. TV broadcasters don't want exclusive rights to "news."

In the end, it's all on the US athletes -- the internet blackout. For some non-western athletes, the Web might be there only chance at getting exposure for telling their "woke up at 5 am, ran through a mine field, trained in a broken down old badmitton court, and now I'm gonna take home gold for Montenegro!"
posted by rschram at 10:14 AM on September 3, 2000

I think Atlanta demonstrated that the Olympics is mostly sacchrine crap.

I don't agree: having seen British and American media spins of the Olympics, there's definitely the tendency for NBC to turn the Games into a "real-life drama". (I've never understood the obsession with gymnastics, for instance, which comes across as a TV movie in the guise of sport. Apart from surmising a somewhat creepy devotion towards the superannuated pre-pubescent girls who take part.)

Essentially, though, I think it's because the BBC isn't looking for ratings: instead, it has a kind of "public service" duty to show the more obscure sports, particularly those with British participants. After all, these are the real stories: the individuals who mortgage their houses, juggle training and work, and for what? To compete in the sports which almost guarantee no possibility of corporate sponsorship.

And those people are the ones who I'd love to see keeping weblogs, to remind us that something like the Olympic ideal is sustained beyond the hospitality tents.
posted by holgate at 11:52 PM on September 3, 2000

My niece skied in the Nagano games in '98, and regularly updated her web page (as did family members who were there to see her compete) so that family back home (out in the country where television access to reports was spotty but the web was available) could know how things were going for her.

If I were an athlete who was keeping a blog or journal online, I'd merely hand the passwords over to someone who was there to see me, or to a friend back home who I could call with news. (In Nagano, there were stations in the Olympic Village where the athletes got free long distance calling so that they could check in with the home folks.) If the athlete weren't actually writing the material for himself, could the IOC really do anything to them? I think not.
posted by Dreama at 1:25 AM on September 4, 2000

Whether or not the IOC is acting illegally under any law anywhere, how many countries are going to risk upsetting them?
If you get on the wrong side of the gravy train operators, they won't build a station in your neighbourhood - then all the politicians and 'officials' in the respective country won't be able to get on and take a ride.....
posted by Markb at 5:21 AM on September 4, 2000

One of my friends observed that there's a close correlation between the amount of airtime given to a sport and the amount of spandex used by its participants. "Women's" gymnastics (girls, since women are not capable of successfully competing anymore due to an unfavorable strength-to-weigh ratio) and swimming and diving get lots of air time for the reason you think: so that people can spend a lot of time ogling bodies. It's actually soft porn. (It's kind of sad.)

But fencing gets almost no time because they're wearing those thick suits and you can't even see their faces because of the masks.

I must confess that one of my favorite events in the olympics is in gymnastics: men's "still rings". It's not that I like ogling the bodies (for I am I pure hetero and have no interest in men's bodies) but simply that for the life of me I don't understand how they can do what they do. I never tire of watching that event. But there's not a single event in women't gymnastics which I enjoy watching, and I loathewomen's floor exercise. (Turn off the stupid music!)
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:57 AM on September 4, 2000

You know, I'd like to see them put a 19-year-old age minimum on participants in "Women's gymnastics" so that they really were women again. I'm old enough to remember when women really did compete, instead of them all being girls. There's something seriously wrong with the fact that the most successful participants are 10-12 years old. What kind of life do they lead to get there? That's no childhood.

There's no such problem on the men's side, because no boy will ever be able to successfully compete.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:02 AM on September 4, 2000

Ooohhh! Scary! Not that I give a rat's fuck about the Olympics. It's all about money, not about sport!
posted by Mr. skullhead at 5:01 PM on September 5, 2000

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