Let the words run free

China’s Beijing Games will have to contend with the blogging phenomenon:

The International Olympic Committee is for the first time permitting athletes to write blogs.

The IOC has set out guidelines for blogging at the Beijing Games to ensure copyright agreements are not infringed. They include bans on posting any audio or visual material of action from the games themselves.

The move follows the increasing use of unofficial blogs by athletes in previous Games, including Athens in 2004 and the Turin Winter Games.

“It is required that, when accredited persons at the games post any Olympic content, it be confined solely to their own personal Olympic-related experience,” said an IOC statement.

Australia is entering the fray:

The Beijing Olympics are set to become the “blog Games” after Australian athletes were given the green light to express their views for the first time in internet blogs they write during the Olympics.

But they will have to adhere to strict rules not to reveal confidential information about other athletes, not to make obscene or defamatory remarks, not to reproduce images of competition and ensure their comments are “dignified and in good taste”.

In the wake of the British Olympic Association’s decision to prevent its athletes from making political comments about the host nation, Australia’s Olympic Committee president John Coates confirmed Australia’s athlete blogs would not be censored. “We respect the rights of athletes to have an opinion and express it,” he said.

The International Olympic Committee has opted in favour of blogs, accepting they are a part of life for many top athletes and part of the culture of the younger generation. But the introduction of blogging at the Beijing Games could cause problems for Olympic team managers.

AOC officials are privately concerned blogging could risk offending the Chinese hosts and their many political sensitivities.

It’s almost guaranteed that some athletes will write about China’s human rights abuses and the behind the scenes stories that journalists won’t see. This is something to be savoured, though a potential nightmare for the Chinese authorities. Until the regime understands that criticism, argument and dissent is part and parcel of a healthy country or event, they’ll continue to react negatively to Western discussion about “internal affairs.”