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Sponsor Stalinism!

The Olympics are upon us again. But despite several mutterings after the Beijing Olympics four years ago that sponsors were interfering with the event to an unacceptable degree, things seem to be just the same this time round.

It perhaps doesn’t come as a surprise that Old Trafford, which is hosting matches in the Olympic football contest, has had to cover up some of its seats to obscure the Nike “swoosh” to satisfy Olympic regulations – wittily summed up by the Manchester Evening News as “a case of ‘Just Undo It’“.

The Oxford Mail reported that primary school children from Thame were being told to wear Adidas trainers or unbranded trainers for the opening ceremony on 27 July. Not surprisingly, this didn’t go down well with readers – a poll asking whether children should have to comply with sponsors’ interests got more than 90% no votes.

Actually, as a follow-up story the next day made clear, the truth is that organising committee LOCOG didn’t insist on Adidas or unbranded trainers – they simply advised that children wear them. Even so, five days after that, the Daily Mail was still misreporting the story, saying that LOCOG had “confirmed the regulations”.

So perhaps LOCOG chair Lord Coe deserves a bit of sympathy when he likens the row over sponsorship to the myths over EU “straight banana” regulations (which he did in a BBC interview on 20 July, reported in the Daily Record and various other newspapers). Not a great deal, though, as he did such a bad job of explaining LOCOG’s position on the issue that a spokesperson had to issue a clarification afterwards.

Meanwhile London Mayor Boris Johnson did his best to burnish his “man of the people” credentials by inviting all and sundry to make use of the Olympic rings in their shop displays (as his friends at The Sun duly reported, although – perhaps surprisingly – they failed to get in their customary plug for Sky News, where the interview was conducted).

Mind you, it might be considered hypocritical if he stops others from using the Olympics for their own promotional purposes. He’s certainly doing enough of that himself.

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