The Point
Last updated: 05 March 2020. sky thinking for an open and diverse left

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The Olympics: Greed or Glory

by Shirley Gibb

Ambush Marketing. As someone whose choice of reading matter is a socialist/green magazine you may not be familiar with the phrase. Wikipedia defines it as:

“ a marketing strategy wherein the advertisers associate themselves with, and therefore capitalize on, a particular event without paying any sponsorship fee.”

Where the Olympics are concerned, this means that big companies that pay a sponsorship fee costing millions of pounds can both use the Games in their advertising material, and advertise at the Games. Conversely, companies that do not pay the fee are not allowed to do so.

The result is that small businesses, even those operating in areas where events will take place, cannot use any Olympic logos or trademarks, cannot use the words Olympic, Olympian, or Olympix, and even more bizarrely, cannot use two of the words in the following List A with one of more of the words in List B:

List A: Games, 2012, Two Thousand and Twelve, Twenty-Twelve
List B: Gold, Silver, Bronze, Medals, Sponsor/s, London, Summer

No, this is not an extract from the novel 1984, but from the website of The Chartered Institute of Marketing, which also explains to its readers that the sanctions for infringing the rules include “raids on your premises and criminal convictions.”

Thus the trickle down effect, also known as the Olympic Legacy, is obviously failing to manifest itself as far as small businesses are concerned.

And what about the big businesses? The huge companies that can afford to pay millions of pounds in sponsorship fees, and can also obtain exclusive monopoly rights, include such household names as MacDonalds, Coca Cola, Adidas and Visa.

Apart from the absurdity of a sporting event being sponsored by food and drink companies whose products almost certainly contribute to poor health and obesity, the ethical records of the sponsors are not good.

Coca Cola has long been the subject of a boycott imposed by the Colombian Solidarity campaign, who accuse them of complicity in the assassination of eight trade union workers since 1990. The company is also accused of causing water shortages and polluting groundwater in areas around its bottling plants in India.

Adidas has been highlighted by War on Want as a company whose workers experience poverty pay, abuse and exploitation in its factories.

The metal for the Olympic medals is being provided by Rio Tinto, in spite of the company being accused of causing serious air pollution in Utah, where the metal is mined.

Many other Olympic sponsors have similarly bad ethical records.

A consequence of the exclusive monopoly system is that visitors to events will be severely restricted in the amount of food they can take in to the venues. Picnic hampers and cool boxes are
likely to be forbidden, so food will have to be bought from the official providers. And paid for with cash or a Visa card, since no other credit cards will be allowed.

But the Games are not only about corporate financial gain and expansion. They are also going to be a showcase for an astonishing variety of British military equipment.

A warship on the Thames, drones in the sky and ground to air missiles on rooftops are among the more dramatic security measures planned. Add to these 13,500 troops, 12,000 police, 23,700 personnel from the private security firm G4S plus unknown numbers of security personnel accompanying participating nations and the sponsoring companies, and the picture of East London as a military zone is complete.

Reported costs of The Games vary according to what you read, but are generally thought to be heading for £20 billion. The original projected cost was about £2.4 billion.

According to The Olympic Charter the aim of the games is "to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity".

The Olympic oath says "In the name of all competitors, I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules that govern them, in the
true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams."

Google the words Olympic ethos and you will find:

“The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practised without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”

The athletes no doubt share these sentiments. They should of course be the main focus of the event, but seem to be conspicuously absent from pre - Games publicity, which so far has focussed on the journey of The Torch.

The few glimpses of hopeful participants that I have seen on TV show amazing young people who have spent the last four years working, in a way most of us never will, towards the goal of The Olympics. It is to be hoped that when the time comes their dedication and effort will remind us that the Olympic ethos and goals can still be meaningful, even when struggling amongst corporate greed and military clampdowns.


External links:

Bella Caledonia

Bright Green

George Monbiot

Green Left


The Jimmy Reid Foundation

Laurie Penny

New Left Project

Newsnet Scotland

Richard Dawkins

Scottish Left Review

Socialist Unity

UK Uncut

Viridis Lumen

Wings Over Scotland

Word Power Books