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Olympic athletes granted the right to blog… sort of

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently reached a shocking conclusion: Blogging is a “legitimate form of personal expression.” In the run-up to the Olympic Games, we’ve all heard about the Chinese government’s restrictions on bloggers’ freedom of expression, but not as many people seem to be aware of the blogging bans the IOC ...

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FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently reached a shocking conclusion: Blogging is a “legitimate form of personal expression.”

In the run-up to the Olympic Games, we’ve all heard about the Chinese government’s restrictions on bloggers’ freedom of expression, but not as many people seem to be aware of the blogging bans the IOC itself has imposed on Olympic athletes. In 2004, for the Athens games, athletes and coaches were not permitted to write firsthand accounts or maintain online diaries (a.k.a blogs). Posting personal videos and photos online was banned, too, unless permission was obtained first.

The IOC’s brilliant rationale for gagging the athletes then: Protecting the interests of companies holding broadcasting rights comes first. (As if an athlete’s blog is a direct competitor to an NBC sports commentator.)

This year, though, the IOC seems to have finally seen the light. Sort of. In Beijing, athletes can blog, as long as they follow some simple rules:

  • No blogging about other competitors
  • No videos, photos, or audio clips of sporting events and opening, closing, and medal ceremonies
  • No ads or mention of sponsors (blogs can’t be used for commercial gain)
  • No domain names with words similar to “Olympics”
  • No infringement of copyright agreements
  • No information that could compromise security and staging of the events

My hunch is that as the Internet evolves and people become more tech savvy, some of these rules will prove tough to enforce. People will find ingenious ways to evade them; even at earlier Olympics, athletes are reported to have blogged “illegally.” The IOC will learn sooner or later that trying to control people’s online activities is a task of Olympic proportions.

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. @pjaroonFP

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