Social Guidelines Come to Fore at London Olympics

More than 14,000 athletes from 205 Olympic teams are set to compete in the London 2012 Games, and the global audience can expect to hear countless inspiring stories of perseverance and dedication. On the day before the opening ceremonies, one Greek athlete's story is far from inspiring. 

On July 22, 23-year-old triple-jumper Paraskevi Papahristou tweeted, in Greek, "With so many Africans in Greece, at least the mosquitoes of West Nile will eat homemade food," the The New York Times reported. In a statement issued July 25, the Greek Olympic Committee said, "Following the decision of the Hellenic Delegations’ Administration Board...Paraskevi Papachristou is suspended after her comments that go against to the values and ideals of Olympism."

While this isn't the first time Olympians have landed in hot water over social media usage, it is the first time an errant post will sideline an athlete from competition. Nick D'Arcy and Kenrick Monk, members of Australia's Olympic swimming team, posted a picture of themselves on Facebook grinning with guns in June, and subsequent outrage prompted an apology from D'Arcy, who said the post "was never meant to be offensive."

In its social media guidelines, the International Olympic Committee encourages the use of social media during the Olympic Games, and says that “postings, blogs and tweets should at all times conform to the Olympic spirit and fundamental principles of Olympism as contained in the Olympic Charter, be dignified and in good taste, and not contain vulgar or obscene words or images,” according to the Times

For the athletes who have spent countless hours being coached in their respective sports, at least one training session should focus on proper social media etiquette if they plan on posting throughout the games. The United States Olympic Committee, for example, encourages social media use, and has incorporated guidelines and training into its regular preparation sessions for athletes. And what's good for Olympians is, on the whole, good for those of who are less athletically gifted but no less tied to organizations.

Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg