Thursday, 19 July 2012

Do not mess with people armed with pointy needles and high-speed Internet.

While I understand the law protecting the rights of official sponsors with regard to logos and wording, I was a bit miffed to learn that Ravelry Admin had been warned about the use of the term 'Ravelympics' to describe the knitting challenge organised on the website.

The site is a member's only site and the 2012 challenge, like its predecessors, makes no profits (other than the satisfaction of competitors when they complete their projects by the closing bell of the 2012 Olympic Games.) There was a great deal of anger on the site when the details of the 'cease and desist' notice was made available to members.

First - how did  USOC (United States Olympic Committee) find out about the Ravelympics Challenge? Did a member 'whistle blow'?

Second - while respecting the copyright laws,  the cease and desist notice did not end at 'cease and desist' - it became personal. Offensive words from the USOC (United States Olympic Committee) included

"We believe using the name 'Ravelympics' for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games. In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country's finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work."

Some of the two million-plus members of Ravelry’s knitting and crocheting group felt the U.S.O.C.’s letter was an affront to the entire crafting community. They took up arms which, in this case, are particularly pointy needles, and said the U.S.O.C.’s letter disrespected them and belittled their hobby.

Their messages said the letter also disparaged the Ravelympics, an event in which thousands of knitters knit one, purl two while watching the Games in hopes of making gold-medal-winning items in events like the Cowl Jump, Handspun Heptathlon and the Sock Put. (There also is a yarn-spinning event called Le Tour de Fleece, but so far the Tour de France hasn’t sought to quash it.)

Some knitters said they would no longer donate to the organisation. Others called for a boycott of the Games. One tried to organize a “knit-in” at the U.S.O.C.’s headquarters in Colorado Springs. This response,  flooding the U.S.O.C.’s e-mail, putting out thousands of posts on Twitter and commenting on its Facebook page hundreds of times over,  forced the organisation to apologise not once, but twice in a span of 24 hours. The second apology read

We sincerely regret the use of insensitive terms in relation to the actions of a group that was clearly not intending to denigrate or disrespect the Olympic Movement. We hope you’ll accept this apology and continue to support the Olympic Games.

Despite the apology, it is evident from the logo at the top of this post, that USCO insisted on a change of name for the challenge. Personally, I like the new name, but it still rankles that a website with private membership cannot use any official Olympic logos or words.

The whole affair made me think just how commercialised the Olympics have become. When did that happen? When did it change from a celebration of amateur athletes coming together from aound the world to compete in games that transcended national boundaries? Like my fellow Ravelry members, I did a little research with the help of highspeed internet.

"When you go back to the origins of the Games, the Olympics has almost done an 180-degree turn on its amateur and original ideals, says Tony Collins, director of the International Centre for Sports History and Culture at England's De Montfort University.

He says the first small sponsorship deals started to emerge in the 1930s, normally with local companies, and grew in the 1970s, but it wasn't until 1984 that the Los Angeles Olympic organising committee decided to pursue sponsorships. This came after the financial disaster of the 1976 Montreal Games."

I can understand not using the olympic rings or mascots as images on items for sale, but just imagine not being able to use '2012' as part of a community event name. Looks at Logo - oops