By Duncan Mackay in London 

Olympics press_roomOctober 23 - London 2012 will face criticism here this week from the world's media who are angry that organsiers are charging up to £150 ($239/€173) a month for access to the internet during the Olympics and Paralympics. 

Media organisations from all around the world are due to attend the third World Press Briefing, where officials from London 2012, including chairman Sebastian Coe, will update them on preparations for next year's Games. 

But they have already come under fire from the AIPS, the International Sports Press Association, who are angry that more than 10,000 accredited journalists face the prospect of having to pay for the internet despite BT being a Tier One London 2012 sponsor. 

London 2012 are proposing to make journalists to sign-up for one of three packages to gain internet access.

A bronze package will cost £90 ($143/€104) per month, silver £130 ($207/€150) and gold £150 ($239/€173).

Gianna Merlo_at_athletics_stadium"We have asked LOCOG to offer the rate card at no cost," said Gianni Merlo (pictured), the AIPS President.

"We believe it is possible to offer the rate card at no cost because in the past large organisations have offered the media a chance to use internet free of charge at many other large-scale sporting events, e.g. the FIFA World Cup and all recent World Championship eventsnc, including the 2011 World Championships in Athletics held in Daegu, Korea."

London 2012 have claimed that the packages they are offering will guarantee the most reliable and fastest internet connection ever at a major event.

"The managers of LOCOG have pointed out that their offer package also includes the cables in all the stadiums and that this has been a great investment," said Merlo.

"However, we think that this is normal, because the organisers of an Olympic Games must offer this, as did the organisers of the FIFA World Cup in all the stadiums.

"It is not something special, nor is it unique."

The AIPS are also upset that there is no dedicated Media Village for journalists and that they will face further internet charges in hotels. 

"[It's] a choice that is understandable and has saved the Organising Committee a lot of money but in this case the international media has been penalised," said Merlo.

"For example, many of the official media hotels do not offer a free internet connection, therefore forcing colleagues to in effect pay a second rate card.

"This is absolutely unacceptable.

"We suggested to the LOCOG press office managers that, with BT, they could develop the possibility of offering a USB mobile internet modem to all the accredited media, one which could be used outside the Olympic Park, because, journalists now work everywhere, including on the buses during transfers.

"BT, the communications giant, is one of the 2012 Olympic sponsors and so we'll pay what the sponsor makes available to LOCOG.

"It makes us think that, in the end, we'll be the ones paying for the sponsorship.

"The problem of the rate card was immediately criticised last year by the SJA, the British Sports Journalists' Association, and we completely agree with them.

"I believe that the Organising Committee could find a solution and offer the press the basic rate card free of charge for the media and on payment for special requests, as is right and correct."

London 2012 claim that neither they or BT are making any profit from the charges and, for one fee, cabled internet connectivity will be available at all venues, as well as the Main Press Centre and Olympic Village, for the first time in the history of the Games. 

But Merlo is not satisfied with the response from London 2012.

"We believe that what the Organising Committee is providing to the press should be standard practice for a top event such as the 2012 Olympics which will be held in Great Britain and not in a third world country," he said.

"Yes, journalists can afford to pay, we are not beggars.

"But it is the duty of the organisers in these difficult times to make available the best working conditions with the minimum sacrifice . 

"What must not be forgottem is that it is the media who have in the past saved the spirit of the Olympics  without  asking for anything.

"And this because they believe in sport.

"For this reason we believe that further steps can be taken and these are within the power of LOCOG, an organisation that we respect for its high professionality."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related stories
January 2011: Exclusive - London 2012 to provide free internet access for athletes
August 2010: London 2012 set for criticism over internet charges
April 2010: London 2012 plan to charge media for internet access