U.S. Twitter rebels want to help struggling athletes

by Reuters    Jul 31, 2012

Olympic Twitter protestThe Olympic Twitter protest by American athletes over restrictions on the promotion of sponsors is aimed at helping peers who struggle financially to stay in the sport, world champion runner Sanya Richards-Ross said on Monday.

A string of American track and field athletes launched the campaign on the social networking site in the early hours of the third day of competition at the London Games.

The tweets targeted rule 40 of the Olympic Charter, which forbids athletes from taking part in advertising for anyone except official sponsors during the Games.

“People see the Olympic Games, when athletes are at their best but they don’t see the three or four years before when many of my peers are struggling to stay in the sport,” Richards-Ross, twice Olympic 4×400 metres relay champion, told reporters.

“The majority of track and field athletes don’t have sponsors. In the sport, a lot of my peers have second and third jobs to be able to do this. We understand that the IOC is protecting its sponsors but we want to have a voice as well.”

Rule 40 protects the 11 international companies, including Visa, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, which help to bankroll the Olympic movement, paying around $100 million each for four years of global rights to sponsor a Winter and Summer Games.

Those companies and sponsors of National Olympic Committees, including the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), are exempt from rules designed to prevent “ambush marketing” or non-sponsors getting free publicity on the back of the Games.

“Only two percent of U.S. athletes are able to tweet about their sponsors because only two percent of athletes have USOC or IOC sponsors,” said Richards-Ross.