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Olympic Twitter rules might spell disaster

The International Olympic Committee issues guidelines for athletes who wish to tweet during the 2012 games. At the heart of this potential disaster is the definition of "first-person diary-type" tweeting.

You might today be worried about the idea that the Supreme Court may believe Americans still prefer violence to sex.

However, might I turn your eyes toward an even bigger cultural disaster? For today, the International Olympic Committee has decreed that athletes will be freer than ever to tweet during next year's London Olympics.

The way Reuters reports it, this will be a day when the Olympics and social networking hold hands, kiss, leap onto some gymnastic parallel bars together, and synchronize their movements.

I, however, have examined the small print of the IOC's fine declaration. I see pain and pestilence lurking in its midst.

You see, the IOC might not yet understand the instant impulses that tweeting engenders. You grab your phone. You cradle your laptop. Out pop words whose speed is that of a Usain Bolt from the blue.

The IOC's "Social Media, Internet, and Blogging Guidelines" (PDF) are, no doubt, as well-intentioned as the way the Olympic Committee allows NBC to delay live events--just so that we on the West Coast can blog and tweet about how insulting and annoying it all is.

This is (or will be) London's lovely new Olympic stadium. CC Carlbob/Flickr

So the words of the guidelines make for rich imaginings. While encouraging all athletes to tweet and blog like contemporary beings, the IOC insists on telling athletes how to write. In "first-person, diary-type format" to be precise.

This it distinguishes from, um, journalism. Really. Because the minute you write in a first-person diary format you are no longer a journalist but are instead Bridget Jones. No, I'm not. Whoopsie.

So Olympic competitors "must not report on competition or comment on the activities of other participants or accredited persons, or disclose any information which is confidential or private in relation to any other person or organization."

This surely sends us higher, further, and more strongly into difficult areas.

The aforementioned Bolt will be allowed to tweet: "My legs were moving faster than Kim Kardashian's commercial instincts."

But if he tweets: "I was passing the sprinter from Belarus when I heard him pass wind," he risks severe IOC sanctions.

A Kenyan lady marathon runner would be entirely at liberty to tweet: "At Mile 18, I saw that Brad Pitt in the crowd. He was cuddling that nice girl from 'Lost.'

But if she tweeted: "At Mile 22, that skinny girl from Croatia had two very large sausages," hell might have to be paid.

And woe betide if any Olympian actually tweets something that might be deemed commercial. For example: "I had some Frosties this morning. They were grrreeeaaatttt!!" This might see them being tossed from the games.

Oh, didn't I mention the part about being thrown out of London? Well, let me allow the guidelines to speak again: "The accreditations of any organization or person accredited at the Olympic Games may be withdrawn without notice, at the discretion of the IOC, for purposes of ensuring compliance with these Guidelines."

I'm not fond of the use of "accredited" following so closely behind "accreditations," but the meaning seems quite clear. Tweeting miscreants might be sent to Scotland. Or wherever they might have come from.

I am concerned that these rather schoolmarmy rules might cause more headaches than they prevent. Sometimes, when people start messing with the intricacies of social media, they do end up with dairy produce on their rosy, red-wined cheeks.

I say this purely in a first-person, diary-type manner, of course. Now I am off to work my biceps on a faulty garage door, just like all those four-foot Olympic weightlifters from Azerbaijan.