If you live in the UK, you may be aware of a new disease sweeping the nation: it’s called ‘Olympic 2012 Fever’, and primarily it affects the British Broadcasting Corporation, making them believe that anything to do with the Olympic Games counts as news. Yesterday, while people were killing and maiming each other in Syria, we were having an in-depth discussion on the lunchtime news of how Britain might win a medal for diving (and after all that, we didn’t).
But this fever has a more sinister side. First, the giant corporations that have sponsored the games have ensured a draconian set of rules are enforced around all the venues so that spectators can basically only eat or drink what they’re told to. So, while Britain is supposed to be showcasing all its talent and entrepreneurial spirit, you can’t buy a sandwich from some bloke (or blokess) who has got off their backside and set up their own snack bar. You can’t sit down next to the Olympic Stadium and tuck in to a good old British pie made from ingredients that have been lovingly and locally produced and not shipped half way around the world from some dodgy processing plant.
And god help you if you describe your breakfast as ‘Olympic’ or the colour of your hair as ‘gold’.
Under the trading law made up by the Olympic Committee themselves, they effectively own the copyright to the words ‘Olympic’, ‘2012’ *, ‘Medals’, ‘bitter disappointment’ and ‘podium’.
Think I’m making it up? Well, not entirely. Here is the real list (gleaned from the BBC’s website):
Use of two words in Group A, or one word in Group A and one in Group B, could see you falling foul of Olympics sponsorship rules:
- Two Thousand and Twelve**
I see, worryingly, that the word ‘and’ is included in Group A, so that could be a problem right away. ‘Summer’ is also a no-no so presumably other seasons will follow. ‘Winter’ is probably already covered.
Oddly, ‘Paralympic’ is fine to use it would seem.
The word ‘Olympics’ is already covered along with any association with the images to do with the games (so anything ring-shaped is forbidden. Expect Saturn, donuts and the M25 to be sued soon).
Unbelievably, the UK government wasted, er spent, actual time and taxpayers’ money on debating, and then passing into law, the Olympic Symbol (Protection) Act of 1995 and, realising how much fun that was, created the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006. These laws give a ludicrous amount of protection to, what is now, the ‘Olympic brand’.
So, there was a mug. A coffee mug. It didn’t have any symbols on it, just words. In fact, these words: “If coffee drinking were an Olympic sport, I’d be a gold medal winner!” Absolutely not allowed. So, when you say something like “if raining over summer were an Olympic sport, Britain would win a gold medal” to your mate, expect a million years in jail (you have implied an official association with the Olympics, used the word ‘Olympic’ plus no fewer than three words from Group B). What you should have said was “if raining throughout June, July and August were some kind of competitive sport in the Paralympics, Britain would win some kind of recognition in the form of a metallic disc attached to a necklace for coming first.” Something to think about for the first thousand years of your jail sentence.
All of which reminds me of when I was a kid and, as a family, we would have Sunday lunch at the dining table, listening to re-runs of The Goons on the radio. There was one episode where Moriarty and Grytpype-Thynne copyrighted the word ‘help’ and then repeatedly pushed Neddy Seagoon, who couldn’t swim, into the Serpentine. Every time he yelled “help!” they would fish him out and charge him five pounds.
Brilliant, funny and scarily ahead of its time!
* I know, they’re numbers really. Or one number. Or two. Depends how you say it, but I am sure that the copyright covers any pronunciation.
** See? I told you.