Every Participating Country in the Olympics Is Entering Women This Year

The past six months, all eyes have been on Saudi Arabia on whether or not they will enter women in the Games as part of their National Olympic Committee.

And I’ve been trying to write this story every week since May, but the answer keeps changing.

From the HRW website

In February, Human Rights Watch condemned Saudi Arabia publicly and called out the IOC in an extensive report called “Steps of the Devil: Denial of Women’s and Girls’ Rights to Sport in Saudi Arabia.”

In a press release:

“‘No women allowed,’ is the kingdom’s message to Saudi women and girls who want to play sports,” said Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The fact that women and girls cannot train to compete clearly violates the Olympic Charter’s pledge to equality and gives the Olympic movement itself a black eye.”

The International Olympic Committee demurred, stating they don’t issue “ultimatums,” even though they have done so before with a ban on South Africa entering the Games until the end of apartheid. In March, however, the possibility of Saudi Arabia bringing in female athletes looked promising. Then in April, they weren’t. In June, things looked good once more, with an actual woman in mind — show-jumper Dalma Rushdi Malhas!

Dalma Rushdi Malhas

This is amazing.

Then last week, a female delegation from Saudi Arabia was “not guaranteed.”

On Monday, Malhas has become unable to compete thanks to injury to her horse, and no other women qualified to compete.

BUT YESTERDAY WAS DIFFERENT. Because finally, Saudi Arabia announced it would send two female athletes to London.

Sarah Attar, who will run in the 800-meter race.

So, the answer at this very moment is yes! Hooray! But there are two weeks until the opening ceremonies. The promise of Saudi women competing won’t be fulfilled until we see them on the field ourselves.

According to the IOC, this decision came after months of ongoing dialogue. Saudi Arabia is not the only country who is entering women in the Olympics for the first time.

Qatar’s Noor Al-Maliki via the Guardian

Qatar was easily convinced as they plan to bid for the 2024 Olympics (having failed to get the 2020 Olympics) and Brunei was not even able to send a delegation in 2008, so added a woman to their delegation this time with their list of qualifying athletes. Despite the fact that she would not qualify under normal standards, the IOC included her because the Olympic Charter dictates that “National Olympic Committees have the possibility of entering unqualified athletes in athletics and swimming should they not have athletes qualified in these sports.”

While the IOC’s ambiguity on the subject was definitely frustrating, Saudi Arabia’s back-and-forth in the face of international criticism was even more egregious. However, I believe that Saudi Arabia’s wavering on this has shown two things: first, that the government is holding tight to their values of restricting women’s rights, but also — also! That those values can be challenged if they are put under an international microscope like the Olympic Games.

What does this mean for the fans? Well, I feel that any sports where these three delegations are entered in are going to imbued with political justice. They’ll be the underdogs in their sport, but rooting for them will be even sweeter thanks to the political ideals they represent, and no matter how they do, they will be highly respected for it. That also means that the national broadcasters will (hopefully) see this crazy amazing thing for what it is, and hold on to that news narrative throughout the Games — women’s track and field will be an especially exciting no-more-than-15 seconds.


The “First” “Social Olympics”

This year is the “Social Olympics.” No, it doesn’t mean the Olympic athletes suddenly get together and act like college students as they get to know each other in their dorm-like habitats. They already do something of the sort already. And in years past, the Olympics has been social, to a certain extent — Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr were all invented before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. However, a lot has changed with social media in that time. We are more connected than ever, as shown in these infographics comparing past Olympics:

And all that is change is being utilized to the point that the already ubiquitous Olympics will become inescapable:

Many more people now have smartphones, so they can react immediately to something they have seen in a stadium, arena, court, pool, ring or velodrome. Clearly the London Games will be tweeted, tagged, liked, blogged, mashed and rehashed like no previous Olympics.

The BBC is a following a strategy in particular that will keep you glued to a screen during all times of the day:

“One, ten, four” was introduced in early 2011 to simplify and bring greater discipline to the BBC’s online strategy which, in preceding years, had seen the organization develop 400 different web sites. Its aim was to deliver “connected storytelling” through the delivery of one service (the BBC) with ten products (including TV, News, Weather and Sport) across four screens–mobile, tablets, PCs and connected TVs.

Facebook is working with the IOC to expand their social media outreach, because you really can’t ignore Facebook, especially since they’ve added 800 million people to the site since the last Summer Olympics in 2008. They have a special page collecting all Olympic “footage” that covers everything from specific Olympic pages to athletes’ updates.  NBC is also pairing up with Facebook so your friends will know what you are watching (even if they really don’t care). And the Washington Post is using the Socialcam app to create “London Eyes” all over the Olympic Games through their reporters and specific fan uploaded content as well.

Of course, in creating this project, I did a lot of outreach with Tumblr and blogs and Twitter, trying to find fans all around. With Twitter and Goole Hangout, I also found NBC reaching out to fans with specially allotted times with the athletes, like their #AskMegan initiative a couple weeks ago with Megan Rapinoe from the US Women’s Soccer Team.

Of course, the main reason this is the “first” social Olympics is the restrictions and guidelines put in place with social media in mind.

All this sharing and connecting has also created some new headaches. There is grumbling, for instance, about the restrictions that the organizers of the Games have imposed on this most freewheeling of media formats.

Local Olympic organizing committees always go to great lengths to protect sponsors, who sometimes shell out hundreds of millions of dollars to associate their brands with the Games, from so-called ambush marketing by companies that try to get free rides. Sometimes, as in the case of the London Games, special legislation is enacted.

This time, the guidelines include provisions for social media, detailing what marketers may and may not do. Among the banned actions are the use of certain word combinations in social media content: Nonsponsors have been warned not to try putting, say, “twenty-twelve” and “gold” in the same tweet.

Athletes and spectators face restrictions, too. Neither will be permitted to post video footage of sporting events to online forums. Participants are allowed to post on blogs or Twitter, but the postings must be in a “first-person, diary-type format and should not be in the role of a journalist,” the guidelines state.

“They must not report on competition or comment on the activities of other participants or accredited persons, or disclose any information which is confidential or private in relation to any other person or organization,” the rules say.

Olympic Tickets: Fraught With Controversy and, Well, Fraud

Of course God has an iPhone

Of course God has an iPhone.

Now, I don’t have tickets to the Olympics. I have no opinion on this, except to say that it is endlessly tiring to watch sports in real time when you are a short person (which I am). I mean, sometimes you’ll want to just sit down because your body is aching from trying to stretch your shortness to see over the 6 foot guy in front of you, but then when you do sit down everyone starts screaming over something they can see and you pop up again to look but then you remember you can’t actually see anything.

Wait, what was I discussing? Oh right: tickets.

Tumblr is filled with pictures of tickets from happy would-be spectators.

Olympic Tickets!

A lot of people on Tumblr use Instagram.

However, the problem with the tickets is that LOCOG decided to play hard to get. According to James Pearce at the BBC in May, the tickets are in danger of not being sold out.

Last year there were an astonishing 22 million applications in the first round ballot for the 6.6 million tickets available to the British public….

Fast forward a year and the story is very different.

Basically, after holding on to several rounds of tickets, almost a million tickets remained unsold two months before the Games. This decline in excitement could be a number of reasons: it’s too late to book a hotel, the prices are too high, etc. Fellow Fan Olly Offord spoke about his personal frustrations with the ticket process:

Weren’t we told that all sessions were oversubscribed a year ago? Why has the system put so many people off. Only 150,000 of the 1.2million people disappointed in the first round bothered to try again. That is some serious disaffection.

…My problem on Wednesday, when the tickets went back on sale, was the waiting and the system which allowed you to put tickets in your basket that no longer existed, and it’s only 30mins later that they tell you that deflating fact.

The other reason was the price. I’ve tried to enter into a few European ticket releases, but have had to stop dead when I see what they want to charge.

The most oversubscribed event in the initial ballot was … the Men’s 100m, duh. But there are still tickets available for the one event that is likely to grip the whole nation. Who doesn’t want to go? The only snag, they cost £4,500 a pop.

With that kind of exclusivity, is it any wonder that most people are starting to distrust that this is an Olympics we can all get involved in?

Then yesterday the LOCOG decided to really annoy British fans by having the tickets “distributed on an internal sales system to sponsors.” Though they promised 75% of the leftover tickets would eventually go to fans.

Hearing this news, the BBC asked fans who they thought deserved the tickets:

“I think it is fair that the sponsors were given tickets because without them the London Olympics wouldn’t be as good. However, I think the majority of tickets should be sold to the public and a small number to the sponsoring companies.”

Sasha, Swansea, Wales

“I think unsold tickets should go to soldiers who have come back from places like Iran as they deserve it the most not companies.”

Leah, Southampton, England

“I think I should have one because I have tried millions of times.”

Bob, Shropshire, England

“I think that they should donate some to orphans and homeless children who would love to go because they would never be able to afford them!”

Penelope, Blackburn, England

“I think people who give their lives to sport should get ticket and half price.”

Lara, Ireland

“I think the Olympic tickets should be given to the Beavers/Brownies/Cubs and the Girl Guides. Other countries have their children involved in major sporting events and I think we should also be given this opportunity.”

Alice, Bedfordshire, England

“I think that they should go to the Queen and she should select as many tickets that are left and give them to members of the public that have done something good or have been through hard times.”

Angelia, Northamptonshire, England

Add this to the scandal of tickets being resold on the black market by national committees! Which, even though the British public is expected to get all its tickets and the IOC and LOCOG are not at fault, is still really frustrating for the people who were hoping to watch the Games:

Many of those who have struggled to secure tickets for the biggest events and already feel ill disposed towards what they see as preferential treatment for sponsors and blazers will see this as yet more evidence for the prosecution.

The timing is less than ideal for London organisers, just as they were hoping to capitalise on the groundswell of goodwill created across the country by the torch relay and the looming excitement of the sporting spectacle. They hoped that growing buzz would translate into an acceleration in sales for almost 2m remaining tickets for football and high-priced options for less popular sports and drown out complaints over sponsors, Games lanes and selection controversies.


NBC v. BBC: American and British Olympic Ideals

Both the British broadcaster BBC and the official American broadcaster NBC released their trailers for Olympics Coverage this past week.

The BBC went with the sweet electric voice of Ellie Goulding and a girl in gold going to a rooftop party for the Olympics Opening Ceremony:

I can understand them wanting to fit with the LOCOG’s idea of branding London and the UK in a new light. But I also love the fact that the girl gets dressed up to watch the opening ceremonies in real life as opposed to a TV. I mean…this is a TV commercial for primarily a sports event. But because the BBC is a public service broadcaster, the commercial is about getting the public excited that the Olympics are in their town.

NBC went with cheering, yelling, and Michael Phelps (also Ryan Lochte as a possible usurper!):

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