Some of Team USA’s top athletes are demanding changes to the sponsorship rules so that they can cash in on appearing at the Games.
Sanya Richards-Ross, a two-time gold medal-winner in the 4x400 metres, said that the Olympic ideal was at odds with reality and that athletes should be allowed to make money from their success. “Six billion dollars is being traded here so why do we compete for free?” she asked.
She is leading a Twitter campaign to remove the restrictions on what can be promoted during the Games. The International Olympic Committee’s Rule 40 bars athletes from using their names or image for advertising during the Games period.
Richards-Ross says that the rule penalises those who do not share sponsors with the IOC. “Rule 40 is restricting us because only 2 per cent of athletes have been able to tweet because they have IOC sponsors. That means 98 per cent of their peers can’t, and we are disgruntled. We understand the IOC are protecting their sponsors but we want to have a voice too. The Olympic ideal and the Olympic reality are now different.”
The question of promoting sponsors on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook is only one matter of contention. Richards-Ross and others also believe that athletes should be paid to compete. There is no salary for being at the Olympics, although some National Olympic Committees reward gold medal-winners.