The International Olympic Committee has deigned to allow athletes at the 2008 Beijing Olympics to blog. However, the IOC wants to make sure that athletes know the rules beforehand. They cannot post pictures, audio, or video of the events because the IOC does not recognize blogs as a form of journalism:
The IOC has set out guidelines for blogging at the Beijing Games to ensure copyright agreements are not infringed. They include bans on posting any audio or visual material of action from the games themselves. …
“The IOC considers blogging… as a legitimate form of personal expression and not a form of journalism,” the Olympic authority said.
“Blogs should be dignified and in good taste.”
Dignified and in good taste? The IOC obviously hasn’t spent much time reading blogs. Or, maybe they have.
Since this Olympiad takes place in China, where oppression on free speech and Internet access has been a major issue, who becomes the arbiter of dignity and good taste? Will the athletes have to pass their posts through an IOC censor before the text can hit the web? Or will that fall to China’s authoritarian regime, as it does for more than a billion Chinese? Once pre-publication standards get put in place, enforcement always follows.
The real concern isn’t about dignity and taste. It’s the fear that the athletes will use blogs to make political statements about the oppression of the Chinese government. The Olympics have a long and inglorious history of being manipulated for political purposes, by both its athletes and its host nations. The IOC wants to cut off the athletes while looking relaxed, but has no problem staging games in countries known for their dour attitude towards liberty, free speech, and free access to information.
In effect, the IOC has become a mini-me to Beijing in an attempt to straddle that line. Only the East German judges would have given them high marks for courage with this statement — if freedom hadn’t eliminated the ersatz nation of East Germany almost two decades ago.