Figure Skaters Online’s Jamie Blanchard has worked with elite figure skaters since 1999. Of the 15 members of the 2010 U.S. Olympic figure skating team, Blanchard currently works with six: Jeremy Abbott, Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett, Rachael Flatt, Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir. A member of the communications and marketing staff at the Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA)/USA Softball, Blanchard is traveling to Vancouver as a member of the U.S. Paralympic delegation.
Figure skaters are more accessible now than ever. When I joined the staff of Figure Skaters Online in 1999, the only way I ever connected with an athlete was on e-mail and the phone. Oh, and there was even one athlete who hand-wrote her journal entries for me to transcribe because she didn’t have a computer.
To be up close with a skater today, I don’t even have to do more than sign on to my Facebook or Twitter accounts. Or pick up my new smart phone (which, for the record, sometimes makes me feel stupid because it’s so incredibly high tech). It’s there I can find out that Jeremy Abbott had “jalapeño cilantro lime chicken with guacamole for dinner” and that a bird pooped on Evan Lysacek’s car. If I keep a close eye on it, I can usually figure out who is dating whom, although that never has interested me much.
The Internet has brought everyone closer together. Without much effort, I can be Facebook chatting Jeremy Barrett or texting Alex Johnson. I can be tweeting with Johnny Weir. And I can be receiving an e-mail from Rachael Flatt or Mirai Nagasu, both who are also skaters I love to Tweet with. All so effortlessly. Not like the old fashion way of picking up a phone to actually make a call, instead of e-mailing, Facebook, texting or Tweeting.
But now that the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada, are just days away, I have a feeling that we’re all going to feel a little disconnected from our favorite skaters, who have always been there for our off-ice, and oh yah, on-ice entertainment. How will I sleep at night if I don’t have the race for NBC Olympics No. 1 tweet to comfort me in times of boredom?
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has strict but doable rules for blogging, including the use of Facebook and Twitter. Here’s what you need to understand about the regulations, which are covered in the “IOC Blogging Guidelines for Persons Accredited at the XXI Olympic Winter Games, Vancouver 2010” and the “IOC Internet Guidelines for athletes, coaches, trainers, officials and any other accredited participants” documents:
• “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.” If you think our 2010 U.S. Olympic figure skating team needs some lessons on team bonding, you’re probably not remembering that their Facebook fan pages, Twitters and sites “should not contain any interviews with, or stories about” anyone other than the person writing.
• “Under no circumstances, throughout the duration of the Olympic Games, may any athlete, coach, official, press attaché or any other accredited participant act as a journalist or in any other media capacity.” Remember when Tanith Belbin, who is competing at the Olympics in ice dance with Ben Agosto, did some red carpet work for ESPN? Belbin will have to keep her stellar interview skills under wraps until the flame fades.
• “In terms of content [on their official Web sites], athletes may report on their own personal views and comment, but they may not report on any issues other than those linked to the Athlete.” It’s this rule that prevents Weir from giving us his trademark color commentary in a journal during the Olympics.
• “Images taken by athletes, coaches, trainers, officials and any other accredited participants in Olympic Venues or in the Olympic Village may not be used in any public manner or broadcast capacity, including display on a website, at any time, unless the written consent of the IOC is obtained beforehand.” Because training probably was the focus for many Olympians the last few months, many probably did not even think to get permission to post their Twitpics from the kiss and cry. It’s generally not permissible for skaters to post pictures from anything that requires a credential or ticket to get in to.
• “Athletes, coaches, trainers, officials and any other accredited participants may not use any audio device (recorder, mobile phone, etc.) to record their voice or transmit from within an accredited venue for eventual use on television, radio or the Internet.” It would be pretty awesome to hear someone like pair coach Jim Peterson narrate his skater’s programs. But again, it is not allowed.
So while athletes are able to connect with us while they’re at the Olympics, they do have guidelines to follow, including those that I mentioned above. Keep the rules in mind before you think to send a tweet to Abbott asking what it’s like working with 1994 World Champion Yuka Sato at the Olympics. Think about these rules when you want to criticize a serial Twitpic-er for not posting. It’s not that the skaters don’t want to connect with us, they just have to be mindful of how they do it.
Think some of the blogging and Internet guidelines were confusing? If you have two hours, let me explain the use of logos, not only including the Olympic marks and symbols but also the use of non-Olympic sponsor logos. On second though, save the two hours and just be as carefree about those things as I wish I could be.
Disclaimer: Athletes, coaches, trainers, officials and any other accredited participants should discuss the guidelines with their National Governing Body (NGB) and their National Olympic Committee (NOC). The guide is for general information purposes but is not meant to advise accredited participants on how to handle blogging and other Internet communication during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
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