It all began when Jamaican sprint star and Olympic record-breaking gold medal winner shared videos of her winning runs in the 100-meter and 200-meter races on Instagram on August 3, 2021. Thompson-Herah was celebrating her 100-meter run of 10.61 seconds, which broke the previous Olympic record for the event that had stood for 33 years.
Thompson-Herah posted, “I was blocked on Instagram for posting the races of the Olympics because I did not own the right to do so. So see y’all in 2 days,” referring to her pending 200-meter race. Some hours later, she had regained permission to use share the videos and posted, “My block is cleared.”
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is the owner of the intellectual property relating to the Olympic Games and can limit what athletes and other personnel may share on social media, including images and videos from Olympic events. However, a spokesperson for Facebook, the parent company of Instagram, stated that Thompson Herah’s access to was “mistakenly suspended,” and the video was removed. Instagram removes content that is reported by an individual or organization that owns the rights to it.
In addition to setting a new Olympic record in the 100-meters, Thompson Herah set a new Jamaican record in the women’s 200-meter event to win gold in 21.53 seconds. Her wins in both the 100-meters and 200-meters represented a successful defense of her 2016 titles achieved in Rio, which gave her four Olympic gold medals total in two consecutive Games. She is the first woman to achieve this feat. Her attempt to share her elations with her 310,000 Instagram followers was stopped, however.
As social media becomes the medium of choice for fans to engage with the Olympics, copyright and other limitations on the types of content that may be shared online have also become more evident. In 2021, Olympic athletes have posted viral TikToks of their behind-the-scenes experiences many times. According to the IOC, the removal of sone online content from social media is an automatic process and that Rights Holding Broadcasters (RHBs) have the exclusive right to broadcast the Games.
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The IOC has loosened some of the more restrictive social media sharing policies in recent years, but the rules still prohibit audio or video of the “field of play” or “back of house” areas to be posted by athletes to their personal online accounts. The income the IOC receives from the sale of broadcasting rights is a critical element in financing the Olympic movement and helps to construct the Olympic environment in which “athletes can shine,” according to committee representatives. Over 90 percent of IOC income is distributed to the “wider sporting movement,” or a daily equivalent of $3.4 million for aiding athletes and sports organizations around the world.
Photo – Elaine Thompson-Herah Instagram