Olympic (Can I Say That?) Fever
Saying that the "London restrictions are harsher than they were in China four years ago," Ad Age this week noted that to protect Olympic sponsors, "a 35-day, one-kilometer Brand Exclusion Zone will be enforced around all Olympic venues, inside which no brands that compete with official sponsor brands can advertise." Moreover, the U.K. passed legislation saying only Olympic sponsors can use the words "games," "2012," "twentytwelve" or "two thousand and twelve." Says Ad Age: “Unless you are prepared to face criminal charges, it's best to avoid using the words 'medal,' 'gold,' 'silver' and 'bronze.'"
On the social media side, athletes cannot upload pictures or footage, and/ or post reports about their own -- or anyone else's -- performance. And in the biggest buzz-killing incentive to drop out, the games' 70,000 volunteers have been instructed not to post anything about the games on social networks. They are banned from disclosing information on athletes, VIPs or their locations. Photos of backstage areas are also out of bounds.
#servitude: "Standing next to (a major world-class athlete) at (a place near London) and (he) said (something really interesting)." Certain to go viral.
With these restrictions, the Olympics has officially shifted from a spectator event to a made-for-TV production to sell McDonald's, Coca-Cola, British Airways and Adidas. There is no longer any pretense about "our best home-grown amateur athletes" against "your best home-grown amateur athletes." Rather, it’s "our highly paid professionals -- who probably got a free ride and training at a U.S. university -- and are skilled at hiding performance-enhancing drug use" vs. "your highly paid professionals -- who probably got a free ride and training at a U.S. university -- and are skilled at hiding performance-enhancing drug use."
There is something inherently sad about seeing NBA players crush teams from countries that don't even have professional basketball leagues (or a well-oiled NCAA farm system). Or having to test someone's DNA to determine if they are male or female. Or countries with GNPs in the trillions grinding out wins in meaningless sports like Canoe Slalom or Trampoline over countries that can't pave their roads or give everyone a tetanus shot.
If you think the Olympics are for "everyone," that is because you have never been to the Olympics to see that it is only for those tied to sponsor dollars in some way, shape or form. Within 30 seconds of going on sale, tickets to anything and everything you would want to see are gone. What the sponsored haven't hoarded, you can get on the black market for 10x or 20x their face value -- or if you are tied to sponsor dollars in some way, shape or form, they will be put in your hands.
Massive blocks of land, hotel rooms and transportation are given over to "hospitality" venues for corporate sponsors who will stay utterly dry in the English rain -- while the poor schmuck who scored tickets to leftover events -- like, say, weightlifting -- will pay premium prices for officially sanctioned junk food (after all, they ARE sponsors) while schlepping 10 miles from the nearest overpriced parking spot. BTY, the Super Bowl works on the same caste system.
Now if you manage to get a ticket, get to a venue and can actually see a live event, you stand a chance of being thrown in the slammer for eating a Whopper instead of a Big Mac or wearing Pumas instead of Adidas. Waving a Pepsi can at the marathoners if you are within a few meters of the race route is probably good for a year in the Tower, and a year of scrubbing nasty Kate Middleton graffiti off the walls near the interminable wait line for a ride on the Eye.
Now that you've seen pictures of that ugly Orbit monstrosity that was to be the British answer to the Eiffel Tower or The Statue of Liberty, there is no point in even taking a chance that you'll run afoul of the "Sponsor Laws." So stay home, have a Diet Pepsi and a Dave's Hot 'N Juicy ¼ lb Single, turn down the sound when the British Airways ads come on, and keep an eye on social media for the "illegal" posts from spectators, volunteers and athletes. You know it will happen.