Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Olympics Extravaganza, London 2012

The Olympic-branding police will be out in full force.

The Guardian reports that London games organizers will be checking every bathroom in every Olympic venue. They are empowered to remove or tape over manufacturers' logos even on soap dispensers, wash basins and toilets. Athletes will not be able to tweet home the brand name of the cornflakes consumed that morning, or mention the drinking Pepsi, or post a video message from rooms in the athletes' village. Coca Cola is the main soft drink sponsor. Pubs will be banned from posting signs such as: "Watch the London games on our big screen."

These are some of the results of the most stringent restrictions ever put in place to protect sponsors' brands and broadcasting rights. It affects every athlete, ticket holder and business in the entire United Kingdom. All this while 82 per cent of Brits believe the Games will not do them any good.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) demands its own rules. It requires host governments to enact specific legislation to protect games sponsors and IOC "rights". A breach of these rules is a criminal offence.

In a curious twist, a survey of Tweeters found that Nike (a non-sponsor) is the brand most associated with the Games, instead of Adidas, which paid £100 for official rights.

So offensive has the rights game become that, at the 2010 World Cup, 36 Dutch women were ejected from a match for wearing orange dresses, in what organizers deemed an ambush campaign by the beer company Bavaria whose symbol is women in orange dresses.

One report claims there is good reason for these Olympic restrictions. Any shortfall in sponsorship must be made up by the British taxpayer. The IOC has stacked the deck. The only losers may be British citizens who was not consulted if they wanted the Games in the first place. Given Olympic history, the taxpayer loses no matter what.

As Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins put it: "The Olympics have become an Orwellian parody of what happens when a world agency blackmails a government aching for prestige into spending without limit."

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