by Charlie Tims
I can’t help feeling that this feeds into a wider malaise concerning protection of the Olympic brand and public participation. Concerns over “protecting” the Olympic brand are debilitating any chance of the national celebration, step change in sporting participation called for by Choe, Jowell etc. The report by the DCMS Select Committee into the Olympic Games raised this concern in January;
“an ability to associate with the 2012 Games on a non-commercial basis is essential if community involvement and legacy is to be realized to its full potential. We recommend to the International Olympic committee that it should work with LOCOG to identify ways of permitting this”
The need to protect corporate sponsors rights to the Olympic rings is so great that people who want to run events in association with the games effectively have two choices;
1. Make your event, programme or project *nothing* to do with the Olympic games.
2. Convince the Organising Committee that your event can be endorsed by the Olympics and then issue licences to every single participating organisation, and then make sure that those organisations do not have sponsors.
You can’t help feeling that it’s not just the term DIY Olympics which is contravening the Olympics, but the concept itself.
Why does this matter? Why should people be able to have ways of participating in the games?
When the games were projected to cost £3bn, you could almost justify such rigorous protection of the Olympic sponsor’s rights – the sale of rights was supporting a third of the budget. But with the costs now parking closer to the £10bn mark, it seems much harder justify – we’re paying for the games – shouldn’t we be able to do what we want with them?
In a world where digital cameras, mobile phone videos, flickr accounts and blogs abound, London will not be able to communicate a positive message to a global audience of 4.5billion people, without people's active participation. London is now a collaborative brand - the era of the stage managed Olympics is over. The question is not whether people participate - but whether they will participate in a positive way.
Thirdly, rhetorically the organizers of the games have called for participation in the games and people have responded by saying they want to. 100,000 people have expressed an interest in volunteering. Across the country community organisations, city councils are at the ready. What is energy and enthusiasm, could rapidly turn into disillusionment tomorrow without routes for this energy to be channelled.
Protection of the rings was instituted after the shambolic rampant cash-in at the Atlanta Games by anybody with something to sell. It was not intended to blow people out of the equation.
I and Demos have no interest whatsoever in mindlessly criticising organisations and people’s work on this blog. I would actively encourage anyone who knows, to explain I am wrong. I would much rather be wrong than right.
I have uploaded an essay titled "The Post-Exotic Olympics" on the London games which will be part of a forthcoming collection about London and Barcelona. It expands on ideas in this blog post. Again, comments welcome in the stream below.