The New York Times’ Doreen Carvajal on a particularly backwards trend being embraced by sporting events rights holders.
When the Pan American Games start in Brazil in July, thousands of top athletes will run, wrestle and leap, but they will not be able to indulge in one popular daily exercise: blogging.
Neither will their doctors, coaches or massage therapists, in a blanket ban affecting some 7,000 people during two weeks of competition ending July 29 in Rio de Janeiro.
œThere™s a natural trend among sports organizations to expand their territory, said Jens Sejer Andersen, director of Play the Game, a nonprofit sports ethics research group in Denmark. œThis is normal for any business that tries to expand its control of the market. But it goes to the core of the functioning of the independent media in our society. The danger is that no real discussion about events on and off the sports field can take place, reducing us to millions of passive sports-consuming robots.
The authorities of the Pan American Games wanted to protect the exclusivity of their events by barring athletes from blogging or œvlogging with audio or video content. Eloyza Guardia, a spokeswoman for the organizers, said they were simply following the lead of the International Olympic Committee, which imposed a similar ban during the Winter Olympics in Turin in 2006.
Typically, there is a divide on this issue between dominant sports organizations and lesser-known competitions that are trying to build audiences. The America™s Cup sailing match, which starts April 16 in Valencia, Spain, for instance, attracts less television coverage than some international events. It does not restrict blogging and allows liberal use of still photos; a maximum of three pictures a minute can appear online. The Volvo Ocean Race last year actually required its sailors to blog.
Jeff Bukantz (above), captain of the United States fencing team, which is bound for the Pan American Games, was unaware until recently that competition blogging had been banned.
In 2004, he published a running personal commentary when he was captain of the American Olympic fencing team, which won a gold medal. He describes athlete blogging in general as a cathartic outlet for competitors to release pent-up thoughts and feelings.
œOur athletes will abide by whatever the local rules are, he said, but he called the blogging ban œshocking.
œIt™s certainly an egregious form of censorship, he said.