Jul 27, 2012

Putting a price on London and the Olympics

Lauren Gawne Writes:

Lauren Gawne

Lauren is a Postdoctoral Reserach Fellow, currently at NTU Singapore. She works on Tibeto-Burman languages, gesture and LOLcats, but generally not all at once. When not hanging out at Fully (Sic) she can be found at

Lauren Gawne Writes:

With the 2012 London Summer Olympics now only hours away, the world is set for a fortnight of fun and games. While the organisers may want us to remember them as a the greenest games ever, it is an event that is more likely to be remembered for missile launchers on public housing rooftops, protesting cab drivers, and the most publicised attempt to clamp down on the list of words that sponsors of the event have spent a good deal of money buying the rights to.

While the modern commercial Olympics have long protected the intellectual property that comes with the games, this time around it appears that they are not only cracking down on the use of logos, mascots and imagery, but also on related words as well. This means, if you’re using them to raise money (even fundraising for a local school) you cannot use any of the words 2012, Summer, Olympics – not to mention Gold, Silver, Bronze, Medals and Sponsors.

Not only are these words on the list, but they’re sending out over 300 uniformed officers in London and other Olympic venue cities, who will be able to issue fines of up to £20,000 ($30,000). They are also very specific about how you can use these words if you are not raising money. If the event is entirely non-profit you still can’t say  “Village Olympic Fete”, instead you must put it in a way that gives no impression that the London 2012 Organisers endorse your event, for example “Our Village Celebrates the Olympics Fete” (quite a mouthful!).

There is something about all of this that probably feels a bit off to most people. Unlike logos, mascots or slogans, words like “London” or “Summer” don’t belong to this event in the same way. In this day and age we have a lot of freedom when it comes to what words we use, and when. While the organisers stress that they’re only preventing people using these words to make money, it’s very hard to see how a small parish fundraising fete is going to eat into their brand value in the same way a major sportswear supplier advertising globally would. It’s also the same old list of massive multinationals who have coughed up the money for the rights – they make profit out of us day-in-day-out regardless of whether it’s an Olympic year or not, so it’s hard for many people to feel too sorry for them and the words they wish to horde. The sponsors may have chipped in £1.4 billion ($2.1b) to buy the rights to these words, but it doesn’t come close to covering the £12-14 ($18-21b) billion London will have spent getting things ready for tonight.

Of course, as is always the way with such bans many have found a way to flout such requirements, such as the owner of the suit shop pictured above. There’s ways around it at both the big and small ends of commerce; there is the story of Cafe Olympic, which will be trading as Cafe Lympic for the next fortnight, and Nike have filmed an arty commercial with people being sporty in lots of different places called London all around the world. Waterstones, a British bookshop who are not affiliated with the event, has decided that since Olympics is on the list of no-no words they shall instead refer to the event as Voldesport “It which cannot be named.”

We here at Fully (Sic) will be keeping our eyes and ears open for all kinds of Olympic language amusement. If you see or hear anything you can always hit us up in the comments below, or over at Twitter (@fullysicblog).

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3 thoughts on “Putting a price on London and the Olympics

  1. Aidan Wilson

    I don’t watch the Olympics, generally speaking, but I always watch ABC news, and over the last couple of days I’ve noticed that they’ve only been showing still images of events and I thought to myself, why would they not show footage? There must be some restriction against other networks imposed by Nine and Foxtel.

    Well, there indeed is. Other networks are only allowed to show up to three minutes of footage in a program, in a maximum of three programs per day, separated by three hours each, but only if Nine and/or Foxtel have used the footage already, and only if it was in the last 48 hours. Seven, which plays NBC Today each morning, has had to temporarily cease showing it because NBC are an Olympics broadcaster in the US and Seven would breach their agreement with Nine/Foxtel if they showed any Olympics footage, which of course they do.

    My memory’s not so good, but I don’t remember such tight restrictions against other networks in previous Olympics. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  2. Jimmy

    I saw someting on the ABC earlier this week where the rowing team can not name its boats because of these ridiclous rules.

    And Hording the words is right, most of the sponsorship is designed to stop competitiors from sponsoring, for example will Coca Cola really sell more product becasue they sponsor? I would say no, but they have blocked any other beverage from getting their name out.

  3. Son of foro

    Taxpayers are the biggest ‘sponsors’ of every Olympics. Therefore taxpayers have ownership of the images and words and are free to use them as they wish.

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