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The battle to control social media during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games



Social media was around during the Beijing Summer Olympics of 2008, but as Alex Huot, head of social media for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) predicted, the Winter Games of 2010 in Vancouver would be “the first social media Olympics.” It turns out — he was right.

Today, media corporations are competing with citizen journalists, bloggers and Twitter/Facebook users for the most up-to-date content and volume of online traffic. The Olympics has always been a very tightly controlled media event, in part, to protect those media companies that paid millions of dollars for content and video rights to the Games. But with the use of new media outlets and social media, the IOC implemented new limitations on the athletes‘ use of social networking for the Vancouver Games so that they didn’t become journalists themselves.

Some of the limitations went on to define what those particular social media tools were and how they should have been used. For example, the IOC considered blogging as a “personal expression” and not a form of journalism. Were they trying to prevent voices from the new media world from speaking?

If so, this strategy didn’t work. The Vancouver Olympics gave other new venues that are dedicated to “the art” of independent journalism the opportunity to embrace social media. For instance, the W2 Media House helped to support and provide resources for those independent and citizen journalists in the Vancouver area who covered the Olympics.

So, as the IOC may have attempted to control social media (with relation to the Vancouver Games), it looks as though it could not stop the media from advancing with technology and from building upon the momentum that began well before these Games even started. It will be interesting to see what new social media tools will be used during the next Olympic season — Summer 2012 in London.

Read Mark Glaser’s post from MediaShift —  IOC Loosens Citizen Photog Restrictions, Launches Flickr Group — another commentary on this issue that focuses on photography.


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