Tag Archives: olympic

Opinion: IOC, sponsors have hijacked social media via Vancouver Sun

NOTE: Former VANOC communications chief Graeme Menzies shared his opinions about IOC’s constantly changing policy of controlling social media content (both from athletes and citizens) on behalf of rights holders and sponsors and, (often) against wishes and rights of locals.

Article shared below for posterity along with comment for your perusal. Comment written/posted just after the opening of Rio 2016 Olympics.

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Opinion: IOC, sponsors have hijacked social media | Vancouver Sun by Graeme Menzies, June 30, 2016

As the 2016 Summer Olympic Games rapidly approach, sports fans across the globe will use social media to observe and participate.

As the 2016 Summer Olympic Games rapidly approach, sports fans in Rio and across the globe will use social media to observe and participate in the experience.  It promises to be, in the words of brand marketing executive Brian Yamada the “largest social media event ever.”

He’s half right. What it’s really going to be is the most branded social media event ever.

Maybe also the most profitable for media moguls.

Perhaps it was inevitable, but I’m nevertheless disappointed that the IOC and all its corporate and media sponsors have hijacked social media for their own purposes.

It certainly didn’t start off this way.

Back in the months leading up to the Vancouver 2010 Olympics — what would eventually become the world’s first social media Games — people had the idea that social media was “the people’s media.” Part of the thrill and promise of social media at that time was that anyone could publish without approval of editors, gatekeepers, or censors.

Everyone could be a reporter. Everyone could express an opinion.

The whole notion of “official media accreditation” was challenged. Some social media activists rejected the officially-sanctioned rules and roles of media participation in Olympic events, and created the True North Media House — a voluntary, self-accrediting cohort of non-tradition citizen-reporters. There was also the W2 Culture + Media House, an alternative media centre located in the Downtown Eastside, which aimed to create a place where both traditional and non-traditional media could merge and meet for mutual gain.

Social media at this time offered a potent, exciting, new way for people outside the IOC family to engage in the Games and to share their views and experiences with each other and the world.

There was a sense that power, and a voice, had been returned to the people. And there was a dream that the sport event audience could become more than traditional observers and consumers of organizational and corporate narratives … that the audience could in fact be co-creators of the event and help define the media narrative.

Oh how innocent we all were.

Things have not unfolded as we hoped they would. The IOC has moved from passive social media observer to dominant social media player. In 2009 they were content to watch the local organizing committee launch the first official social channels. Today local organizing committees take a back seat to the Olympic giant: the @Rio2016 Twitter handle has a mere 295K Followers compared to @Olympics 3.5M

Unsatisfied with dominance over mere organizing committees, the IOC also engages global brand marketing agency VML to actively promote the Olympic movement and help with their social media strategy.

The IOC’s controlling hand extends to persons not on their payroll: during the period of the Games, and especially while on official venues, all athletes and accredited persons must adhere to the IOC’s social media guidelines. Live-streaming applications like Periscope are prohibited inside Olympic venues.

Mainstream media corporations are also getting in on the action, eager to turn sports fans into revenue streams. Comcast has made a deal with Snapchat to broadcast highlights from the Rio Olympics on the NBC Rio Olympic channel on the Snapchat Discover platform. The media giant is also talking with Facebook and Twitter about similar deals. Reports say Comcast has already scored a billion dollars in national advertising sales for the Rio Olympic Games.

Its all big business now. The citizen-reporter, the alternative media centres, are no more.

Sadly, the opportunity for regular sports fans to meaningfully shape the event narrative is weaker now than it was six years ago. We didn’t know it at the time, but that was as open, unfettered, and non-commercial as an Olympic social media experience was ever going to get.

Graeme Menzies is an international youth marketing professional, and frequent writer on sports and cultural topics.

Source: Opinion: IOC, sponsors have hijacked social media | Vancouver Sun

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Comment from Dave Olson:

Since Graeme published this article, I’ve wanted to write a appropriate response but, realized that the story of “Olympics and the social media” is almost gone.

It also occurs to me that it doesn’t matter to the IOC who are in the business of hamstringing cities into debt under the guise of utopian amateurism and sport.

Indeed, Vancouver will go down not only as the high point of participatory journalism but maybe as the “last reasonable Olympics” (despite the endless snide comments from foreign media who derided the games as not quite glamorous enough for their fickle tastes).

Each Games is preceded with a barrage of negative news pointing at the organizational foibles and these stories often overshadow the social justice and civil rights issues which locals pound the drum about eager for a voice at the table. Then, inevitably, everyone rolls their eyes at the cost and complaints, until the Games begin and then, through an odd sense of quasi-patriotism (jingoism) and excitement of seeing the youthful athletes making maximum efforts, the negative stories recede after the events end.

The media decamp before the Paralympics begin, the clean up crews deconstruct the endless white tents, and the agencies/countries hosting the hospitality houses count their impact. Then, the various levels of governments figure out the wreckage and the long term impact to the region.

While Olympics are catalyst to create infrastructure (which often should be built anyhow), the social justice issues which were raised before fade as quickly as the black SUVs disappear.

The stories of crippling debt from Montreal to Athens, and the excess and hubris of Beijing and Sochi, leave a sour taste in the most ardent sports fans’ mouth. And now Brasil is next in line to suffer the indignity and abject loss which is part and parcel to an event which is really only bid upon by cities with enough money that the fallout doesn’t matter.

Some folks put forth that the Olympics should rotate around 6 venues or build a special venue to be used each time, but these miss the point… the Olympics are a 2 week+ TV commercial for the host city, and a windfall of contracts for specialized companies to build and organize the events, and another 4 years of junkets for the IOC and their elite sponsors in thuggery. Its just not fun for the regulars.

Keep in mind, from Nagano onwards, i’ve actively contributed content (pod, blogs, snaps etc) to the commentary and dialogue, and did so from a point of view which accepted the Olympics at face value and as “inevitable, so let’s make sure the unknown stories are told” point of view. My efforts included wrangling the True North Media House campaign which resulted in social content produced by hundreds of amateurs on their own to a quantity and variety which eclipsed anything VANOC, IOC or the various protest groups managed. We did the whole campaign for about $15 ($50 if you include beer).

Now, i’m just worn out of seeing cities buy into the scheme and the athletes used as tools for profits of endless parade of acronyms of various sports associations and authorities that, despite legions of bureaucrats, still cannot provide a clean, fair games. Seeing athletes in one sport struggle for any support while across the way, millionaires line up in the “spirit of sport” … just makes no sense how it makes no sense.

Digressions aside, back to the original point about social media: IOC has changed positions and enforcement each Games… both in terms of what athletes and teams can post, but also what spectators, and even regular people living in the host city, can share without evoking the wrath of lawyers. As a result, the story is not complete (the TV networks sure don’t tell it) and the issues which were critical before the Games, vanish afterwards.

The IOC is adding “youth-ish” sports to the games to remain relevant for future generations but they again, miss the point and the zeitgeist of youth and the way communication occurs in contemporary context. But i also realize the TV rights fees and sponsors money keeps increasing which is the IOC’s real game – the sports are just a product to market.

Thanks anyway IOC, but i’m not interested anymore. Go amateur athletes (!) go far somewhere where you are treated fairly and compete on a level playing field which is clearly not the Olympics forte (or purpose).

NOTE: I first met Mr. Menzies (the author of the article) when he was obliged to reply to my offer (on behalf of Alternative/Independent media makers) of assistance, coupled with insistence in being included in an event which impacted our city and tax bills.

More: 

  1. True North Media House Olympics and Social Media
  2. Partial archive of the Olympic and media-related communiques
  3. More video content http://ow.ly/WET4302ZV1f
  4. Mr. Menzies’s dossier: http://ow.ly/arRy302ZV2G

Note: send embattled super swimmer Michael Phelps a postcard…

send embattled super swimmer Michael Phelps a postcard of support to PO Box 1734 Onley, MD 20830-1734 – from his official website

Torino 2006, Sunday Olympic Notebook for Feb. 12 via Vancouver Access 2010

Sunday morning observations ~ Olympic Notebook for Feb. 12, 2006 for Vancouver Access 2010, By Dave Olson

Greetings this Sunday Morning!

Just a couple of observations from last night’s and this mornings events from coverage I’ve managed to catch – augmented by a few notes by Dan Funboy.

Besides Jennifer Heil’s awesome performance and Women’s Hockey rolling over Italy (as I type they are leading Russia 10-0), i enjoyed an inspired performance by Italian long-track speed skater (insert name here), who absolutely looked like he was being pushed by the Italian crowd.  Great to see the homer country get on the medal board early too.

More about Speed skating, that hotshot American kid is fast and determined, watch his technique, a double push but they’ll likely talk about this on TV-coverage.  CBC has Catroina LeMay Doan doing color commentary and she was quite good (though she looks rather soccer-mom-ish now – cause well, … she probably is) but she called on Canada to support more and help the athletes to “own the podium” (the Canadian mantra).

06-catriona-lemay&doanCatriona Lemay and husband, Doan at Soldier Hollow Cross Country venue, Winter Olympics 2002 – photo Dave Olson

Of course, in egalitarian and thrifty Canada, most folks want the money spread around so each athlete can get a piece of the pie but, later as the Federal Sport Minister pointed out, they is better return on investment (judged by medals won) but entirely supporting elite athletes with best chance of medaling.

Digression … CBC has some versatile announcers to be sure, and I love a Saturday without Bob Cole and Harry Neale (retire for Pete’s sake), Ron Maclean is a national treasure, Steve Armitage is pretty good at everything but not great at any one, Brian Williams is Canada’s excessively perky Regis.

Claudia Pechstein and Daniela Anschuetz Thoms just skated the 3000m.  Claudia won in 2002 and Canada’s Cindy Klasussen holds the record and skates.  Not Claudia’s best race, a NED 19 year old sits in first.

Claudia Pechstein on drums
Claudia Pechstein, basking in Gold Medal joy and sitting in on drums with Acoustica at the Thuringen House, SLC 2002

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Firecracker Danilea Anschutz of the German long-track speed skating team partying down at the Thuringen House, SLC 2002

Continuing update … Cindy is underway and flying so far, hope she keeps the pace, still under the time, drafting off her pairing (NED Groenewold) down the stretch, smart … still below the target after 2 laps – still looking relaxed and solid, 4 laps now and she is bonking, and slipped and Groenewold wins the heat as Klaussen lost it, tightening up on the last lap. Sits in third but still 4 skaters to go including Canada’s Christina Groves and Clara Hughes.

Freisinger skates now with Groves and neither skaters finished top 3. Clara set to start vs. Sablikova of CZE.  False start and then away clean.  The races have been fast and racers bonking at end so Clara must skate her pace.

Well no go for Sarah but Cindy finishes in Bronze position (same finish as SLC 2002) while the young Nederlander scores Gold.  Both Germans were shut out.

BTW, i really don’t like hearing about athlete’s “faiths” on air, i think that is a personal issue and the fact that she is a Mennonite doesn’t add to the athletic coverage.

Back to Women’s hockey vs Russia 11-0 now halfway through the 3rd.  In training, the women played 22 games vs. Alberta men’s midget teams (not *really* wee folks, just young men) and finished 10-10-2 and increased their physical game with more rough and tumble play.

It is amazing to see the veterans players for Canada against the Italian women last night (replayed from yesterday).  The Italians were tiny and young and looked dazzled by the burly and experienced Canadians to say the least.  Major props to the Italians who battled through to the end.  Heck, I wouldn’t want to have Goyette or Wickenheiser bearing down on me (yikes!).

Vicky Sunohara and Cherry Piper are my favorites.  Sunohara was awesome, gritty, smart player at Nagano and is Piper is wee but a battler and has great hands around the net.
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Cherry Piper with newly won Gold Medal at the M’s Gold Medal Curling match at SLC 2002

12-0 now vs Russia, kinda a joke and an awkward situation for Canada to not let up and if they do, the gain lazy habits in front of net and on backcheck etc.

While Canada continues to roll, a note on downhill skiing which demonstrates the unpredictability of sport with the hotshot Americans finishing out of medals with a darkhorse Frenchman taking gold and Austria and Switzerland taking Silver and Bronze. Manuel Osborn-Paradis was the top Canucks finishing in 13th place Canucks while teammate Francois Bourque came in 16th with a strong finish.  The last Canadian also placed top 30, John Kucera came in in 27th place 2.75 sec off the winning time – just wait for 2010.

Cross-country skiier Beckie Scott finished in, what is likely a disappointing 6th, but in a 2002 Bronze finish, she managed to move up 2 places with positive doping test so maybe she’ll manage to gain a few places again.

Digression … is that Personal Digital Recorders (i.e. Tivo, Replay etc.) are excellent for the Olympics – why is Canada slow to adopt this tech just now available (as mentioned in the ubiquitous commercials)?  I have a Replay TV but no way to subscribe in Canada and I am trying to set it up just to pause and record what i am watching at the moment.

Next up on CBC, Short Track Speed skating and Jeff Christie Luging.

Go Canada!

Source: Sunday morning observations ~ Olympic Notebook for Feb. 12  | Vancouver Access 2010