Flaming Baguettes and Woolly Thinking

Hugh Robertson MP wrote in the February Olympic Quarterly Report:

“One of the greatest adverts for the UK from the London 2012 Games is the Olympic Park itself, which showcases the best of British architecture, engineering and construction”.

Lord Haskel noted this remark in the House of Lords on 21st May 2012, and added:

It is indeed a wonderful showcase for our companies, which supplied not only the innovative products about which the Minister spoke but also the recyclable materials-products that make this a green Olympics. The floor coverings, waste bins and much of the pipework are all recyclable. The new road surfaces use waste material. The energy centre burns waste material. New materials were developed for the roofing membranes, for the 80,000 seats in the main stadium and for the 6,000 seats in the velodrome. The water and sewerage services are most ingenious. As the Minister said, it is a showcase for the best of British industry. What a good story we have to tell-a story that British companies should tell out loud. They can supply these materials and their products to construction companies in all parts of the world.

However, they cannot tell it. Why? In order to get the business, companies had to sign an agreement that they would not publicise their products without permission from LOCOG. Despite many applications, none of the companies that supplied the products and materials that I have mentioned was given permission. A few others have. What is more, companies are not even going to get permission after the Games finish. Why? LOCOG says that it is because, quite rightly, it is protecting the rights of the generous sponsors. However, no one is asking to use the logo, not even the phrase “London Olympics 2012″. They are not allowed to show any association with the Olympic Games. Even using the word “Olympics” or the number “2012” is banned. Permission to publicise this information has been turned down.

The Woolsack knitters also set out to make British knitting part of the cultural Olympiad, which went fine until it dawned on the strictly-money-orientated LOCOG that this would mean a stall in the Olympic Village which would be there for free, giving away cushions that no one had paid for, that had no sponsor’s mark on them – an entirely amateur event. Obviously that couldn’t be allowed; what are the Olympics for, anyway?

Yesterday, Woolsack wrote:

Team GB Olympic and Paralympic rowers were able to choose their cushions and they have already been tweeting their thanks to the makers and some lovely photos. The Team GB Rowing webpage will be linked from here. One of the photos was of a lovely cushion I’ve not seen so I thought I’d share it here. It was made by Marjorie from Amersham and Beth Rodford is the rower who chose it.

Because LOCOG won’t help the Woolsack knitters get in touch with the national teams or allow Woolsack to get in touch with the teams themselves, the only way the national teams can get their cushions – knitted for them with love and British wool! – is by contacting Woolsack themselves.

Also in the Olympics news:

2012 was to be the third year that the knitting social network Ravelry—yes, this exists and is surprisingly popular—hosted a “Ravelympics,” a knitting competition for users that includes events like an “afghan marathon,” and “scarf hockey.” Knitters were supposed to compete in their events while watching the actual Games on TV.

But that was before the U.S. Olympics Committee got wind of it and sent Ravelry a cease & desist, for making a mockery of the Games with their needlework. [Seriously, apparently this is a problem.]

Yeah, Ravelry, do you want to make olympic athletes cry with your dumb knitting olympics? If you wanted to dignify athletes, your Olympics should also accept millions of dollars in corporate sponsorship from Dow Chemicals. But the USOC has a case: In 1982, the “Gay Olympics” were sued and the United States Supreme Court ruled that the USOC had exclusive rights to the word Olympics, and anything vaguely related to the word “Olympics”.

Note the Woolsack UK followed LOCOG’s rules to the letter and got approval to use the Olympics trademark. It did them no more good than Ravelry ignoring the rules.

A Nother Knitter suggested in a comment that the real problem is:

Surely you understand this will not wash?
1) It was not organised by a man
2) It suggests Britons can still make things and produce wool
3) You did not knit on Olympic design needles you must pay £150 to keep
4) It is not part of the Big Society (ie doing for free what you reasonably expect your taxes to provide)

You are not allowed to use the word “Olympic” – or, apparently, any variation thereof – without permission from LOCOG. On the Torch journey:

Officials from the London Organising Committee (Locog) seized leaflets advertising an unauthorised “Olympic breakfast” at a Plymouth sports centre café on Saturday. Also on offer was a “flaming torch bacon and egg baguette” said to break strict rules on the use of Olympic-related brands.

So that a cafe that predates the Olympics coming to London can be required to change their name to the Lympic Cafe.
The Olympic Cafe, London. Now the Lympic Cafe, apparently

It is, as Matthew Pearson notes, brand fascism:

Seriously? A cafe can’t try and make a few extra pence with a leaflet for an Olympic breakfast and even the words ‘flaming torch’ bring down the wrath of the LOCOG enforcers. This isn’t brand protection, it’s brand fascism; the fetishisation of erstwhile commonplace words in a mangled corporate miasma of misplaced greed and self interest.

And it’s stupid too. Very stupid. Radio 4 had a feature today on how the Brain’s beer signs on Cardiff bridges needed to be covered up because they were within the Millennium Stadium Olympic Exclusion Zone. The signs have been their years, I bet the locals don’t even notice them anymore, although paradoxically covering them up and uncovering them once this olympic madness passes will bring them alive in the minds of the population and probably rejuvenate sales of the local brew. LOCOG should pay attention to this, they should consider razing the brewery to the ground during the games as this will of course ensure that no commercial benefit accrues to a ‘non-sponsor’. And pity the 5 or so ‘Olympic garages’ along the torch route (as far as I could see on Google maps), they are just asking for trouble. And what about Mr and Mrs Torch of 78 Chorley Road Bolton: who can vouch for their safety from the Talibrand of LOCOG if they try and make as so much as a single penny from the games as they pass by their front door.

Nor is this all. A history teacher in Tayside wrote to his local paper announcing his intention to protest the Olympic Torch relay when it passed near his home because of its Nazi origins. He’s 70. A few hours after the letter was published, Dave Coul got a visit from two plain clothes police detectives

one of whom showed me an identification card and said it was about my letter in The Courier.

“At this point I started laughing, and kept on laughing throughout the proceedings. I just found it completely daft that a letter to The Courier had led to this.

“They confirmed that their visit was about my letter in The Courier. I had said that I intended to protest when the Olympic torch passed through near us.

“I asked if protest was now illegal. They said no, it isn’t, but there will be lots of folk out to cheer the Olympic torch, and we wouldn’t want you to get hurt by them, or vice versa. I think they were a bit nonplussed that both myself and Keri were laughing so much. I assured them that I had no intention of hurting anybody.”

Dave and Keri Coul carried out the planned peaceful protest – Dave handed out pamphlets to the crowd, Keri held a placard – and the police did not interfere. But Dave Coul was stopped by a marked police car later in the day wanting to know what he was doing in Dundee

“The officer quizzed me about what I was planning to do in Dundee and I asked him why he wanted to know that. He said it was because I’d stated my intentions to protest the torch relay in The Courier.”

For the Olympic and Paralympic athletes, the Games are the four-yearly chance to compete against the best of their peers, trained to the peak of their capacity. For the IOC and their sub-committees, it’s a chance to make huge amounts of money. Why can’t we keep the first and lose the second?

The God Athena, from an ancient Greek temple

The story of Athena and Arachne is of a young woman who was supremely skilled at weaving, challenged to a contest by the god, and Arachne won.

The irreverent Arachne, for her part, had picked out stories that cast shame or derision upon gods. Zeus and his brethren were shown wooing mortals in unworthy form, Apollo humbly serving as a shepherd on earth, Dionysus playing his drunken pranks, nay, scandalous memories of old Cronos himself. From such ancient tales she could choose but too many to fill out her picture, all enclosed by border of ivy leaves and flowers. But these scenes were worked in with so cunning art, that one could believe to see real animals and real waves standing out before the eye upon that accusing web, the more offensive for its truth.
So Pallas-Athene felt when she rose to examine the other’s work. With a cry that was half envy and half indignation, she snatched at the too faithfully coloured cloth, tearing it to pieces, and sobering blows upon the sly maker of such a masterpiece.

So Athena turned Arachne into a spider.

Baroness Doocey said in the same House of Lords debate:

The final lesson we must learn concerns the behaviour of the International Olympic Committee. The IOC’s demands increase with each successive Games, yet, given the keen competition to host the Games, no one dares to challenge it. But how can “Zil lanes” for chauffeur-driven limousines, and traffic lights that automatically turn green as they approach, be justified when they result in gridlock for the rest of London? Sooner or later, some host city must have the courage to stand up to the IOC and say, “Enough is enough. We will happily treat you like honoured guests but we are not prepared to treat you like gods”

After all, LOCOG cannot actually turn us into giant spiders. Arachne transformed into spider

—Followup, after midnight 22nd June

Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an Olympics committee actually grovel before. Go knitters! Keep prodding them with the pointy sticks!

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Filed under Disability, Olympics, Public Transport

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