Olympic Games will be live streamed liberally, but there are strict rules for photography, social media

There will be no stinginess about live streaming this summer's Olympic Games: "If cameras are on it, we’ll stream it,” NBC exec Rick Cordella told Richard Sandomir. Even better, most of those streams — excluding blockbuster events, which will be held until they're shown on TV — will be archived to accommodate those of us not living our lives on Greenwich Mean Time.

The policy is awesome news for fans who felt they weren't being served by the old monolithic model of coverage. For marketers and people who cover Olympic news, though, a different monolith looms: the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, or LOCOG.

LOCOG's determined to head off advertising stunts like the 2010 one a Dutch brewery perpetrated on the World Cup, so it's issued what seem like reasonable, if tough, brand-protection rules. There's already some daylight between the common-sense brand protection behind the rules and how they've been enforced, and as you might expect the conflict derives from human discretion. As Esther Addley reported in the Guardian last week:

A photoshoot promoting easyJet's new routes from London Southend airport was also interrupted by a Locog monitor after local athlete Sally Gunnell was handed a union flag to drape over her shoulders. According to reports, Locog felt this would create too direct an association with her famous pose after winning Olympic gold in Barcelona in 1992 (British Airways, rather than easyJet, is the airline sponsor of London 2012).

Paul Jordan tells Addley "there's certainly an argument" that the brand-protection legislation the International Olympic Committee insists bidding countries pass means fans "wouldn't be able to post pictures to Facebook." That seems unlikely, even if it were practical, but the organizers have put into place strict social media rules for athletes.

Discretion, again, plays into some recent friction about private security and Olympic venues: On Monday Guardian reporter Peter Walker wrote: "As an experiment, the Guardian attempted to shoot video footage of the O2 arena from a public road on its southern edge, only a few minutes' walk from the main entrance." (The O2 arena in London will host basketball and other Olympic events at the games.)

The experiment ended in Walker getting detained by security guards:

Very quickly the reporter was challenged by O2 security guards, who made a series of demands with no basis in law. They ordered that the filming stop – "We've requested you to not do it because we don't like it" – and that they be shown any existing footage. Asked on what basis they could demand this, one replied: "It's under the terrorist law. We are an Olympic venue." Another added: "You have, for want of a better word, breached our security by videoing it [the O2]."

The guards refused to let Walker leave immediately. The incident, he writes, ended after the security guards "called police, who also asked to see the video footage, citing the Terrorism Act. The reporter was allowed to leave after neither he nor the police could properly operate the camera to replay the footage."

Amateur Photographer, a British magazine, writes that in 2009 an enthusiast photographing the construction of an Olympic building was threatened with dogs.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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