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Peter Worthington Headshot

Using the Olympic Symbol Sans Permission? Off With your Head!

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The 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremonies begin July 27 in London with news reports concentrating on security problems -- some 17,000 soldiers to support 6,000 private security personnel, the latter being of questionable training, experience and competence.

London sets the record as being only the city to host the Games three times (1908 when Rome pulled out as host because the volcano, Mt. Vesuvius, was erupting; post-war 1948 when Britain was broke; 2012 which will be the largest Games, consisting of 10,000 athletes and 302 events in 28 days, including women's boxing for the first time. Ugh.).

All very interesting, but the most engaging report I've read leading up to these Games was by Matthew Fisher in the National Post, about the insane regulations supposedly protecting the Olympic brand name or logo.

Fisher is as reliable a reporter as there is in the business (he once laboured for the Sun newspapers), and his account of measures being taken to prevent misuse of the Olympic designation is intriguing, appalling and hilarious. A toxic mixture that verges on the unbelievable.

Among the concerns of what he describes as the "Orwellian-sounding" Olympic Deliverance Committee whose enforcers scour the country "to ensure nobody uses the five hallowed ring for any purpose unless they have paid a fortune to Olympic organizers to do so."

Fines for abuse can total $30,000 -- apparently with the approval of the British government which is so mindlessly eager to comply with Olympic dictates that it abdicates control of its own country. All host countries grovel to the IOC.

A café in London was ordered to remove five bagels hanging in its window else face legal action. The same with a butcher who fashioned links of sausages into a facsimile of the Olympic logo. A florist was rebuked for arranging flowers with the colours of the Olympic rings. With the exception of one fish and chips shop, Olympic food sites are banned from selling french fries, because McDonald's has paid for the concession rights.

There's even the suggestion that Olympic visitors will be refused entrance to events if they are wearing T-shirts with a Pepsi-Cola insignia, because Coca-Cola paid a considerable ransom (unknown amount) for the Olympic soft drinks concession.

Fisher mentions the 81-year-old grandmother who made tiny sweaters with the Olympic logo for dolls selling for the equivalent of $1.63, proceeds going to a church charity. The threat of legal action ended her criminality. The parents of Kate Middleton, Prince William's wife, risk breaking the law by selling on their catering website mugs inscribed with "2012" and "Games." Off with their heads!

The guy who oversees the London Games is Sebastian Coe, now Baron Coe of Ranmore, but once Britain's paramount middle-distance runner who won four Olympic medals -- two of them successive golds in the 1,500 metres in 1980 and 1984. He set eight world records before retiring to become a Member of Parliament, but seems content to go along with IOC paranoid intransigence.

Some feel that the ardour of Olympic bureaucrats in protecting their monopolized logo will eventually hurt the Olympic movement and cause resentment among those who are fans of the Games. Michael Payne, a former Olympic marketing chief, is quoted saying that the zeal to prevent or punish unauthorized use of Olympic insignia is akin to "scoring on your own goal."