In less than 10 seconds, it is possible to undo a decade’s worth of work. When Greek triple jumper Paraskevi Papachristou tweeted, “With so many Africans in Greece... the West Nile mosquitoes will at least eat homemade food!!!” the immediate response was being removed from the Greek Olympic Team. The head of the Greek Olympic Mission, Isidoros Kouvelos summed it up: "She showed no respect for a basic Olympic value and unfortunately she is out," told Greek SKAI TV. "She made a mistake and in life we pay for our mistakes." It seems a bit extreme a choice, but it reminds us of the standards that the Olympic Games try to maintain.
My curiosity is: How on earth, if you as a country (or a team) have invested so deeply in these athletes and are already putting them under such constant, extreme pressure already that anyone responsible for their conduct or their media exposure would let any of them near an I Phone or a Twitter account? As much as it seems like a Twilight Zone episode (or a Monty Python short) it is a bit demented that any athlete does not have the frontal cortex ability to not destroy their chance for a gold medal by tweeting something racist, crude, or politically incorrect; or even simply checking off “like” on someone else’s Facebook post or tweet.
There is a certain fine line of diplomatic relations and marketing intertwining for the Olympic athletes. Almost every Olympian has a coach, brander, image consultant and bodyguard. Hopefully they are being utilized. Even if they are able to do back flips literally on a balance beam, every Olympic athlete must also get a perfect”10” in the sport of balancing in the delicate arena of communications. Whether they are indicating politically benign items like Phelps not liking the US swim team caps, or volunteering personal information akin to 29 year-old Olympian hurdler Lolo Jones telling the world she is waiting for the right man and still a virgin.
Two-time Olympian gold medalist runner and chair of the London 2012 Organizing Committee Sebastian Coe is on-line quite frequently. Coe commented on the social media aspects for London 2012 noting, "I have found quite a close correlation between the number of tweets at competitive times and the level of under-performance." As 2012 gets closer to being dubbed the “Social Media Games” the simple answer is athletes who can’t score a 10 in the game—should not try to play it.