Olympic organizers ban “unauthorized” use of social media

Somebody’s lying here, and – judging by past experiences – it seems like the International Olympic Committee is the culprit.

Vasily Konov, editor of RIA Novosti subsidiary R-Sport, apparently told a seminar for sports journalists that it was his understanding that any journalist who uses a phone, tablet, or pocket camera to take photos and shoot videos at the Sochi Winter Olympics will be stripped of accreditation on the spot.

Not surprisingly, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), denied Konov’s allegation forthwith, saying that, in fact and on the contrary, it encourages the use of social media.

Oh yeah?

Konov’s agency is part of the Olympic accreditation committee. One would expect its editor to know whereof he speaketh. And he was perfectly straightforward: journalists who use amateur-standard technology to take photos or videos of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics will be kicked out immediately.

At least, that’s what the Russian media have been reporting.

Here’s the tenor of their reports: print reporters using any sort of multimedia would be “considered (in) a serious violation and (that would) lead to their accreditation being cancelled.”

Can hardly be clearer than that, right?

Only journalists who use professional equipment and wear special badges that let them do so will be allowed to do so.

The IOC denial, issued by its spokesthingie Mark Adams was quite straightforward, too. He sent an e-mail to USA Today’s For The Win: “Please take as many photos as you like!” and “Sharing pix on social media positively encouraged.”

That, of course, differs wildly from Russian media’s quotes of Konov’s statements: “Organizers won’t be able to have any effect on normal spectators, but supporters will be banned from bringing reflex cameras and nonprofessional equipment to the competitions.”

As could have been expected, Konov must have received a phone call or some other kind of communication telling him to mind his own business and not spill any beans that need not be spilled. So, he would later deny that he had made the statements. The story from the user-generated Ridus news outlet was a “monstrous lie,” he elaborated, without going into any further details.

There used to be a popular saying in communist countries, former Soviet Union not excepted: don’t believe any rumours until they’ve been officially denied. It’s still very much alive and well.

But: Radio Free Europe – a pretty reliable outlet that seems to have had its own reporters at the seminar – said they quite distinctly recall hearing Konov saying what Ridus reported him as saying.

Accreditation regulations surrounding the Olympics are (and always have been) quite strict, but what’s going on in Russia sounds perfectly foul. For example, a wildly popular site, Sports.ru, says its journalists were told last August they wouldn’t be accredited. Why? None of their business. The site’s director Dmitry Navosha, has a believable explanation that can be checked by simply looking at the numbers of user visits to those two sites: it happened simply because his outlet beat R-Sport hands down in direct competition.

For the record: RIA Novosti head Svetlana Mironyuk is head of the accreditation commission, and R-Sport boss Dmitry Tugarin is a member.

It would have remained an internal Russian matter, were it not for the undeniable additional fact that independent Dutch journalists working on a long-term multimedia project about Sochi were told last September their accreditations wouldn’t be renewed. To top it all, a crew of Norwegian TV journalists have never received any explanation why the Russian police arrested them on several occasions last October and November, as they were working in Sochi.

Konov never clarified what he had in mind when he remarked he had similar issues with Olympic organizers in London in 2012. But there was no need to.

Remember the scandals in Vancouver in 2010 when the brave Olympians harassed, for example, owners of Greek restaurants that had Olympic-sounding names? Who cares those restaurants had existed long before the group of irresponsible adventurists hatched the idea of applying for the dubious honour of hosting the Olympic Games?

And does anybody remember that nobody, including the NHL, was allowed to broadcast Sidney Crosby’s gold-winning overtime goal because the footage belonged to the IOC and the two television outlets that had created a consortium to buy broadcast rights? Come to think of it, it’s still off-limits.

The IOC can deny as much as it wants. It’s the facts that speak. And they sound louder than any Olympian denials.

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