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22 August 2014

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Event Issue - Olympics

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Game Plan - The 2012 Games are creeping up on us. Anyone who’s planning to organise an Olympics-themed event should be aware of the issues they face. And no, we don’t mean the rumoured ‘Great Portaloo Crisis of 2012’…


Olympics - olympics.jpgScary how time flies, isn’t it? Seems like only yesterday that London, against the odds, pipped Paris to the 2012 Olympic Games. Now the stadium is built, the Olympic Park is shaping up nicely and venues are already being booked out. Olympic fever isn’t so much creeping up on us; it’s sweeping towards us like a tsunami. Many fine details about the Games are yet to be decided. As we went to press, Prestige Ticketing, which has the exclusive right to provide hospitality at the Olympic venues, was set to announce details and prices for packages at the Games. One thing we can say with confidence, though, is that it pays to be very careful if you’re organising an event with an Olympic flavour, even down to the wording on an invite.
The reason for our cautionary note is the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act of 2006. The Act pulls few punches: ambush marketing, for instance, will be a criminal offence at London 2012. At Beijing, it was merely a civil offence.  

For event organisers, the key part of the Act is the London Olympic Association Right, or LOAR, which allows Locog (the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games) to prevent people, without its authority, from creating an association ‘between a business, goods or services’ and the Games – and this includes events. Locog is obliged to protect the £600m investment by the Games’ various sponsors and its spokesman has assured V&E that it will take infringements of LOAR seriously. As you’d expect, using an Olympic logo (the rings, the 2012 logo and so on) is out of bounds to all but official sponsors. But LOAR goes further, making it illegal to use photos or illustrations of Olympic venues such as the Velodrome without permission. Imagery that you might not consider Olympian could be interpreted by Locog as ‘creating an association’ if used carelessly. To quote Locog, this could include ‘athletic images, representations of an Olympic-style torch and flame, the colours of the Olympic rings… or iconic images which evoke the spirit of the 2012 Games…’ Even a 2012-logo cake is beyond the pale, apparently.

It doesn’t end with imagery – certain words and phrases have to be used with care, too. ‘Olympic’ and ‘Paralympic’, obviously, along with ‘Games Maker’ and, believe it or not, ‘Get Set’. Then there are ‘Listed Expressions’, helpfully divided into an A-list and a B-list. Use two from the A-list (which includes ‘Games’, 2012’ and ‘twenty-twelve’ spelled out) and you’ll be on Locog’s naughty step. Combine just one A-list expression with one B-list expression (‘medals’, ‘sponsors’, ‘gold’, ‘silver’, ‘bronze’, ‘summer’ and ‘London’) and again, you could end up in trouble.
So an invite that reads ‘Forbes & Co will be backing the 2012 Olympic Games with cocktails at…’ would almost certainly be perceived by Locog as infringing LOAR, as Forbes & Co are claiming to be ‘backing’ the Games, and have used three ‘Listed Expressions’. Throw on a couple of logos of companies that aren’t official Olympic sponsors, and Forbes & Co’s misdemeanour is multiplied tenfold. 

At the end of the day, the only question Locog will ask is, ‘has an association been created with London 2012’? As far as they’re concerned, holding an event with an exclusively Olympian theme may suggest an official association between a firm and the Games.Locog isn’t a government organisation and as such has no obligation to provide advice, but there are several useful PDFs to download from london2012.com/brandprotection which give a good overview of what LOAR does and doesn’t allow.

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