“Blogs or tweets must be in a first-person, diary-type format and should not be in the role of a journalist,” state the International Olympic Committee’s social media guidelines.
The London Olympics Committee betrays how their ignorance of how the Internet works with an unrealistic and unenforceable linking policy.
More worryingly, an army of ‘brand police’ are scouring Britain for renegade cake decorators or knitting clubs breaching Olympic copyrights. Council trading inspectors have been redeployed from their main role of protecting the community to guarding the sponsorship values of the IOC and the world’s biggest corporations.
All of this is about control – a country that bids to host the Olympics agrees to draconian rules and regulations on free speech and commerce. Athletes too find themselves subject to harsh, and sometimes arbitrary, controls.
The purpose of these controls is to enhance the commercial value of sponsorships – this is why only McDonalds can serve fries, except with fish, at Olympic venues and only Visa credit cards can be used to buy a souvenir t-shirt.
Like all major sporting organizations, the value of Olympic rights exploded with the growth of advertising and broadcasting rights from the 1960s onwards.
We’ve reached the logical end of that growth as broadcasters struggle under the load of funding massive rights payments and advertisers find campaigns based on what worked in the 1960s or 1980s have less resonance with the debt addled consumers of the 2010s.
None of this will stop the IOC and other sports administrators from enacting iron fisted controls on participants, sponsors, spectators and any one else they can bully, but their power is waning.
Just like the Soviet Union tried to control fax machines as their economy crumbled around them, the same thing is happening with the Olympics and other big ticket sports.
Top level sports administrators are very good at currying favours from the corporate Bourbons and political princelings who love to spend other people’s money to build their own egos which will allow the facade to continue for a few more years.
Eventually though the money will run out as shareholders question the value of billion dollar sponsorships coupled with executive gold passes to the VIP marquee and taxpayers will ask why governments have money to spend on stadiums or elite sports programs when their local school, hospital and police stations are being closed.
History shows that threatened leaders tighten controls when they are threatened. We can expect the next couple of Olympics to have even more draconian rules than London’s.