The International Olympic Committee has announced a ranged of new social media programs that it says will make the London 2012 Summer Olympics the most tech-savvy Games ever.
They've been called the Social Media Olympics and the Censorship Olympics, and the Games haven't even started. The International Olympic Committee's attitude toward social media is the subject of some debate. The Swiss body, responsible for staging and governing the games, is keen to project a new openness. It's launching an online Olympic Athletes' Hub to aggregrate Twitter and Facebook feeds belonging to Olympians, past and present. There'll be live online chats. There's a new Instagram account called Faces of Olympians, showcasing pictures of athletes, a fashion blog on Tumblr and even special Foursquare badge. The IOC's communications director Mark Adams says the organization's attitude toward sharing has come a long way. SOUNDBITE: Mark Adams, IOC Communications Director saying (English) "We are relative newcomers to the social media scene. It's fair to say that three years, before the Vancouver Games, we did no social media. And now we have about 14 million followers globally on all sorts of platforms. Mainly obviously Facebook and Twitter, but also in China on Sina Weibo." Still, despite the talk of permissiveness, all participating athletes are required to read and abide by strict social media guidelines. No videos filmed inside Olympic venues or residential areas can be posted on social platforms. Participants can use the word Olympic in blogs and posts - as long as it's not associated with third party services. Postings, blogs and tweets must conform to the Olympic spirit...be in good taste and not contain vulgar or obscene words or images. The guidelines were written by Anthony Edgar, who is the head of media operations for the IOC. SOUNDBITE: Anthony Edgar, IOC Head of Media Operations saying (English) "It's not a restrictive thing. We haven't tried to create something that's restrictive. We've tried to create something that gives people a voice. How much has it changed? Twitter had nine million users in Beijing.We've got 140 million users now. Facebook had 100 million users in Beijing. It's got 900 million now. So, yeah, it's changed...Yes you can't hold a camera when you're running down the 100 metre straight and do an exclusive broadcast. That's for the broadcasters. You can certainly talk about it. You can certainly take photos of it. You can certainly write about it. That's there." Five time British Olympian Alison Williamson is also taking part in the London and says smartphones are enabling a level of expression unimaginable when she started. SOUNDBITE: Alison Williamson, British Olympic Athlete saying (English): "The social networking in '92 in Barcelona. That was the first time I'd experienced using email...But you could send messages to your frends in the village and you had an inbox, and would be like 'oh, I've got to get back to the village to find out how many emails I've got'. You know, it was a brand new thing then." Adams says what the IOC hasn't changed is its vigilance when it comes to combatting ambush marketing. SOUNDBITE: Mark Adams, IOC Communications Director saying (English) "We have 10, 500 athletes who will be at these games. It's a huge tidal wave but we won't sitting pouring over every post, every tweet. We won't be sitting there in our IOC headquarters in Switzerland looking at that. We're there to help people have that conversation, but rest assured where an organization or a company in particular is looking to make money out of the games, and they're not an official sponsor, we will stop that." Social media is certain to play a central role during the London Olympics, but there's no telling yet what the most memorable stories will be. Matt Cowan, Reuters.