SPORTS

Social media antics provide headlines, drama at London Games

07/30/2012 06:37 EDT | Updated 09/29/2012 05:12 EDT
LONDON - The Twitter Games are living up to their billing.

A Swiss soccer player was sent packing from the London Olympics on Monday for a racist tweet, while a U.S.-based British reporter claims his account was banned after he criticized NBC's coverage of the opening ceremony.

Add in U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo's public Twitter spat with an NBC analyst, and the social media website has been front and centre in the first three days of these Games.

This is considered the first Olympics to be significantly impacted by social networking. While applications like Facebook and Twitter were certainly around during the 2010 Vancouver Games, the volume of athletes, news organizations and fans taking to social media has greatly increased since then.

Most of it is harmless fun, but two athletes have already been dismissed from the Games for posting racist Twitter messages.

Switzerland defender Michel Morganella was stripped of his accreditation by the Swiss Olympic team on Monday after he posted an offensive message aimed at South Koreans. The Swiss team lost 2-1 to South Korea on Sunday.

He "discriminated against, insulted and violated the dignity of the South Korea football team as well as the South Korean people," team chief Gian Gill said through a translator at a news conference Monday.

Morganella said in the tweet that South Koreans "can go burn" and referred to them as a "bunch of mongoloids."

The 23-year-old player later released a contrite statement through the Swiss Olympic committee.

"I apologize sincerely to the people of South Korea, to the players, but equally to the Swiss delegation and Swiss football in general. It's clear that I'm accepting the consequences," he said.

The first athlete to be dismissed for a racist tweet didn't even last long enough to see the opening ceremony. Triple jumper Voula Papachristou was removed from the Greek Olympic team when she tweeted "With so many Africans in Greece... the West Nile mosquitoes will at least eat homemade food!!!"

Like athletes, the media has embraced Twitter as a way to break stories and increase a reporter's profile. But Twitter's "anything goes" reputation was tested Monday when a Los Angeles-based reporter for a British newspaper said his account was suspended after he criticized NBC's coverage of the Olympics.

Guy Adams says his account was suspended after he sent a tweet blaming NBC Olympics executive Gary Zenkel for the network's decision to air the opening ceremony on tape delay. The tweet included his corporate email address.

NBC Sports confirmed in a statement Monday night that the network sent a complaint about the tweet.

"We filed a complaint with Twitter because a user tweeted the personal information of one of our executives," the statement read. "According to Twitter, this is a violation of their privacy policy. Twitter alone levies discipline."

That's not NBC's only Twitter headache. Solo has blasted NBC analyst Brandi Chastain on the website

Upset with Chastain's commentary during the Americans' Olympic match against Colombia on Saturday, Solo tweeted "Its 2 bad we can't have commentators who better represents the team knows more about the game." She also advised Chastain to "lay off commentating about defending” and told her to take a break from the broadcast booth "until you get more educated" and "the game has changed from a decade ago."

Chastain is a former defender for the U.S. national team who accumulated 192 caps over her international career. Still, Solo wasn't backing down from her comments on Monday.

"It's not about what made me unhappy," Solo said. "It's not about one game. I have my beliefs that the best commentators and the best analysts should be analyzing come Olympics, come World Cups, and it's only my opinion. You can take it or leave it, to be honest, so it's my opinion, and I think analysts and commentators should bring energy and excitement and passion for the game, and a lot of knowledge, and I think it's important to help build the game, and I don't think Brandi has that."

The Twitter drama at the London Games has taken some of the spotlight away from another distraction: the amount of empty seats seen at some of the Olympic venues.

Even British Prime Minister David Cameron waded into the issue, saying: "We can do better."

Organizers, who long promised packed games venues, have been criticized after blocks of prime seats were unused across the opening weekend.

Seats were left empty mostly by accredited sports and national Olympic officials, athletes, some media, plus "a handful of sponsors." Military personnel resting from onsite security duties and neighbourhood students and teachers were offered tickets while organizers sought to get more fans into the arenas.

MORE:cpSports