The International Olympic Committee has dropped its gloves, so to speak, over the use of corporate and other logos on athletes’ equipment.
Readers will recall that recently the IOC began to make noise about not letting Hockey Canada use its familiar maple leaf logo on Team Canada jerseys.
Nobody could miss the national significance of the logo. If the word CANADA isn’t a giveaway, the relief of the hockey player sure is. After all, hockey is to Canada what golf is to Scotland and the Alps are to Switzerland (the home of the IOC.)
That pesky little maple leaf also screams out our nationality.
The IOC has always had rules governing the size and placement of logos and – at least on the field of play – has been impressively determined not to allow athletes and venues to be turned into corporate billboards.
But the IOC generally turned a blind eye to sport federation logos, and there is no better example than the Hockey Canada maple leafs.
The logos are not small. They’re bigger than a bullseye.
Last year Hockey Canada began to complain when the IOC said it was going to enforce Rule 51, which governs the size and placement of logos. Generally, the rule is the smaller, the better but no bigger than 20 square centimetres for clothing. Hockey Canada was hopeful it could continue to get permission to use its maple leaf.
But the IOC has now ruled otherwise, and has also published an exhaustive rule book governing everything right down to a ban on corporate logos on contact lenses (I kid you not!)
The IOC just sent the rules – specifically amended for the Vancouver Olympics – to the Canadian Olympic Committee, from which I obtained a copy (it’s a pdf). They cover logo rules for all sport organizations involved in the Games, and they also appear to apply even to accredited media (Not that I wear logos anyway. If Old Navy or Nike or any other corporation wants me to wear a branded T-shirt, pay me.)
I’ve put a .pdf copy of the IOC rules online here (yes, just click the Hockey Canada logo.)
The display of corporate advertising is a fine line for the IOC, which depends almost entirely on corporate sponsorship and the sale of broadcast rights to fund the Olympics. It is willing to take company money and allow its rings to be printed alongside corporate logos, but it won’t allow those logos – or any other commercial association – to pollute the field of play.
The IOC calls it a “clean venue policy” and organizing committees have sometimes gone to such extremes to enforce the rules that (as in the case recently in Beijing) workers diligently taped over the words “American Standard” on all the urinals and toilets in the Main Press Centre.
There’s also the delicious story of the hapless journalist covering figure skating at the Turin 2006 Winter Games who had the Apple logo on the lid of her laptop hastily covered over with duct tape because someone (surely, Lenovo, the corporate computer sponsor) didn’t want it seen when TV cameras swept across the media tribunes.
So, now for those of you who wondered exactly how large a logo can be and where you can put it, download the rules.