After all the build-up and hype, the opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympics is almost upon us. I am fully in favour of the idea that the best athletes from around the world should be able to test themselves against each other on a level playing field, and to a certain extent I do believe that this is still enshrined at the heart of the competition. The fact that I have no desperate desire to actually watch much live sport doesn’t prevent me from appreciating the efforts of others. The astronomical costs of staging such an event has, however, inevitably resulted in financial considerations taking an ever greater prominence.

I have recently read a number of interesting articles about some of the side effects of the economics associated with the games. “David Cameron said the Olympics should be a ‘showcase of national enterprise and innovation’. But as far as the enterprising shopkeepers and restaurant managers at Westfield are concerned, the Games might not be happening. There were no notices inviting people to enjoy Olympic lunches at the cafes or signs in the shop windows wishing Team GB the best of luck in 2012” (Nick Cohen in Daily Mail 14/07/12). Whilst a recently published survey reported a high level of scepticism about the economic benefits of the Games for local communities outside London, Westfield is the new shopping centre in Stratford right on the doorstep of the Olympic Park, so why the apparent lack of engagement? It seems that one reason for the low key promotion might be a fear of litigation resulting from the passing of the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act (2006), with which the then Government granted the organisers some very draconian concessions. Consequently the organisers can protect the Olympic trademarks, as any other organisation can protect theirs, but additionally The Act allows control of the use of words any business or shop may or may not associate with the Games; so along with bans on the use of the Olympic name, rings, motto and logo, organisers can object to certain uses of ordinary everyday language. The Act also allows for criminal prosecutions where normally a civil action would be the only way to pursue any claims. It applies particularly to two specified lists:

List A; ‘Games’, Two Thousand and Twelve’, ‘2012’, and ‘twenty twelve’.

List B; ‘Gold’, ‘Silver’, ‘Bronze’, ‘London’, ‘medals’, ‘sponsors’, and ‘summer’.

What are truly common nouns, appear now to be private property. In addition it is also possible to be accused without even using these words – everyone in Britain has been warned against creating an ‘unlawful association’ with the Games! Even images of the London skyline are apparently out of bounds if used in combination with any image of a runner carrying a torch.

Even attending events at official venues seems to be a risky business with entry checks that aim to be more stringent than those for going through security when entering the country at airports. Not only are checks to be carried out to seek to identify weapons and other security threats; ticket holders may be turned away if they are wearing any clothing that is deemed to be excessively promoting products of non-sponsors products, this being in order to prevent any ‘ambush marketing’ campaigns that may or may not have been planned. I can imagine that this might create difficulties given the fact that many everyday clothing items and accessories feature large and prominent logos. The taking in of excessive amounts of food is also not allowed, although it seems that a definition of what counts as excessive may not be so easy to find. Clearly the sponsors want hungry visitors to purchase food from in-venue franchise outlets (undoubtedly at hugely inflated prices).

I also seem to remember reading that no photos or videos taken within official venues should be published on the internet or otherwise circulated – given the prevalence of mobile phones and digital cameras I really wonder how practical this is; I can imagine that any attempt to policed / enforced this could well trigger a social media storm of protest.

Driving back from Gatwick last weekend I did notice some ‘advertising’ related to the Olympics – many overhead electronic signs on the M25 warned of potential heavy traffic during the Games and suggested that driving in London should be avoided, not the most promising welcome for anybody not seeking to visit an Olympic venue.

Once the Games get under way I imagine that I may get caught up in some of the events and certainly hope that things go ahead relatively trouble free; I just feel that the corporate hand is in danger of choking some of the life out of what really should be a celebration of elite sporting endeavour rather than a revenue maximisation exercise.

Out of interest I have tagged this post with all words from both List A and List B – perhaps as a result this whole post might simply disappear into cyberspace?

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