By David Kahn

The Winter Olympics in Sochi are fast upon us. One of the things that has sparked a major controversy is the amount of rules and regulations that Russia and the International Olympic Committee are holding the athletes accountable for. There seem to be more than usual, and the types of regulations are quite astounding.

For anyone who knows about Russia and its politics, there is the issue of its anti-gay laws, such as the one where simply saying the word gay or promoting a gay lifestyle can lead to prison or or a hefty fine. This worries a lot of the athletes coming into Sochi, because more and more of them have come out and are living openly gay lifestyles. They don't want to be persecuted and threatened while they are trying to compete for their countries at the highest level.

Several athletes, including openly gay snowboarder Belle Brockhoff, have been very outspoken about these anti-gay laws in Russia and how it's affecting their decision to possibly pull out of these games, according to an article written by Glen Cullen on The Age Sport website in Australia.

Another pressing issue that has affected a majority, if not all, of the athletes is the ban on athletes using social media during the games. The IOC has been very strict about how the athletes and accredited media can use social media during the games, restricting the right of free speech that has been held by these athletes and those before them for quite some time. Simply speaking, the athletes aren't allowed to post anything to social media other than positive, uplifting remarks about the Olympics, and can only use their social media for the specific reason of promoting the Olympics during the Olympics.

There are certain restrictions being put in place such as allowing only pictures inside Olympic Village to be uploaded to social media, but no video or audio taken can be uploaded for any reason. The rules get more and more restrictive as you read deeper.

Several countries have stepped up the social media bans on their country's team, since Russia is deciding to be so restrictive towards them. For example, the Australian Olympic Committee has put a blanket ban on their team tweeting from the team bus, and has declared these games to be social media, partying, and personal device free for the Aussies. This comes as no surprise to people, as some of the Australian swim team blamed their sub-par performance in the London Olympics on social media distractions, Cullen reports.

Most of the Australian athletes have been very irked about these social media bans, reporting that they aren't going to follow these rules and will basically do what they please. Fittingly, the athletes have taken to social media to express their concerns about these regulations, with Australia being the front-runner in this discussion. The Australian committee chair Ian Chesterman isn't worried about the athletes not following the rules once it comes time for the Olympics, and just brushes it off as "good social media commentary."

Furthermore, there have been several terrorist attacks in Russia in recent times, causing many countries to fear for their athletes’ safety and decide to confine them to the village areas during the Olympics, which doesn’t make the athletes happy because most of them would like to go and explore the host country as they have done before. Many athletes are making huge decisions right now as whether to pull out of these games because they fear for their lives and personal well being if they go to Russia.

With all of these security threats and social pressures coming from the Olympic Committees, athletes, media and the general public have taken to social media, interestingly enough, to express their concerns over what this is going to do to the games. It's very intriguing to see that the thing that has been restricted so much for the upcoming Olympic Games is now the source of all the commentary surrounding the restrictions. Everyone is using social media to speak their opinions, support petitions to lessen the restrictions, ignite rallies, etc. A powerful voice has been created, which shows just how strong social media can be in creating a movement.

Now, yes, social media can also be harmful in certain ways, especially with all the safety issues being pointed out in these upcoming Games. For example, if an openly gay athlete were to be allowed outside of the Olympic Village and posted a picture or video of him or herself that revealed his or her location, he or she could possibly be putting him or herself in danger by doing so. So, in actuality, the social media ban by several Olympic committees can be seen as a good thing, because it’s helping protect the athletes’ safety while they are at the Olympics.

Moreover, the constant use of social media has blown the restrictions laid down by the International Olympic Committee out of proportion. If you read the guidelines set out on their website, all it basically says is that all postings to social media by athletes need to be positive, uplifting, and supporting of the Games, and only photos can be posted from Olympic Village for professional purposes.

It's really been the specific countries' Olympic Committees that have been putting up a lot of the restrictions, which led to the social media uproar that has been building up ever since the restrictions were announced.

Due to the large amount and magnitude of responses on social media over the security threats and social pressures that are surrounding these games, it seems that these social media restrictions laid down by certain countries and the IOC are actually good and only for the benefit of the athletes’ protection. Preventing them from using their phones and from posting on social media gives them an extra security blanket for their athletes to ensure their utmost safety while in the Olympic Village and in Sochi.

These social media restrictions being put into place for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, while very strict, are somewhat beneficial to the athletes while they are there. With all the security issues that are present in the country of Russia based on their political system, some restrictions are definitely necessary to ensure the safety of all the athletes while they are in the Olympic village.

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