The subject of censorship has been hanging over the Olympics like the gray clouds above the Stratford arena. The London Olympic Games Act amounts to the most brazen, or at least nonsensical, curtailment of free speech in the last 20 years.
Apparently the media is granted rights in this regard that aren’t available to the ordinary Games-going public. We’re allowed to speak openly about the event, use its terminology and even replicate images of its famous rings.
At least I think that’s what I think Crack‘s lawyers would have told me if they weren’t at the tail end (we hope) of a two-day session lost in the fields of Wiltshire with clammy hands and pistol-blown pupils… Anyway, I plan to use that ‘right’ to dump a heaping well of vitriolic shit on LOCOG, the privately funded organising committee of the Games, with all the soapbox-standing power this here blog can provide.
Last year when Sally Gunnell began lifting a Union Jack above her head during an easyJet photo shoot, re-enacting her famous 1992 victory pose, a LOCOG monitor stepped in to ask her to put the flag away. Okay so it’s a pretty corporate event, but it was a poor sign of the breadth of enforcement actions to come.
Aside from the obvious points about trademarked slogans and logos, the 2006 Act goes as far as prohibiting the use of certain Olympic-related terms in unison, essentially making common nouns private property.
Under a clause defining “specific expressions” no word or phrase from the first group can be used in conjunction with one from the second. The first includes ‘games’, ‘Two Thousand and Twelve’, ‘2012’ and ‘twenty twelve’, the second ‘gold’, ‘silver’, ‘bronze’, ‘London’, ‘medals’, ‘sponsor’ and ‘summer’. This put an immediate dampener on the bicentennial of the Billericay-based ‘Bronze Games’ in which contestants compete in varying shades of Olive Tan, Dark Orange and Self Loathing for a chance to get their hands on the crown.
Seriously though, here’s some genuine examples of LOCOG enforcement actions unearthed by The Spectator: a butcher in Weymouth banned from displaying his Olympic sausage ring sign; a small village in Surrey stopped from running an ‘Olympicnic” on its village green; a florist in Stoke-on-Trent ordered to take down its tissue paper Olympic rings display; and ‘Cafe Lympic’ and ‘Lympic Food Store & Off License’ both having to drop the ‘O’ at the start of their names.
To boot the act gives the police a right of power of entry to land or premises to remove, destroy, conceal or erase any infringing article. Presumably they are set to emerge valiantly, yellow and pink tissue paper trampled under foot, frankfurters in evidence bag.
And then there are the sponsors that have paid through the coke-and-chip-swilling mouth for the right to this type of brand protection. The more questionable companies include top-spenders Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, and BP, Cadbury and Heineken.
This leaves their competitors, and the public, in an awkward spot. Lord Coe, chairman of LOCOG, thinks spectators will ‘probably’ be allowed into the arenas with Nike trainers on, but says it’s likely that anyone wearing a Pepsi T-shirt will be turned away.
He told an interviewer that “we are getting into the territory of straight bananas”. That’s not the point Coe. This is a matter of principle. The business that are promoting their wares around the event and up and down the country, the villages that want to celebrate Britain, and the spectators at home and in the stadium all paid for this.
We paid for it with the tax money spent on infrastructure and facilities, with the government guarantee that covered LOCOG’s fundraising initiative, with all those period dramas BBC2 won’t have time to air, and with every last swear words I’ll have to utter on tube station platforms over the next four weeks.
Read more from this category | Rant
Read more from this category | Rant