LONDON - The telephone at Stephen Holt's tailoring business hasn't stopped ringing for days. Photos of his shop-front window in the English town of Surbiton are all over the Internet. Holt wanted to feature the Olympics somehow in his window display, but as a "non-sponsor" of the Games, he was strictly forbidden to do so: Nobody is allowed to use images of the Olympic rings, or the words "London", "Gold", "Games" or even "Summer" for advertising purposes. Altogether, 20 words and symbols are on the list of no-nos known as "the Index".
But that wasn't going to stop Holt. For weeks, his window has been sporting "Lodnon 2102 Oimplycs" with the Olympic rings -- squared off -- below it. Passersby love it, especially as there is quite a bit of general resentment in the UK towards the harsh restrictions on advertising imposed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Since mid-July, 300 "brand cops" have been scouring the country on the look-out for violations.
Big companies like General Electric (GE), McDonalds, Visa and British Telecom (BT) have shelled out some 1.8 billion euros to sponsor the Games, which works out about half the running costs. Each sponsor is promised that it will have exclusive advertising rights in its sector. And British Games organizers are being very tough in defending that promise, with 25,600 euro fines facing anyone who breaks the rules.
Their zeal has reached ridiculous proportions, as in the case of 81-year-old grandmother Joy Tomkins who knit a doll sweater that said "GB 2012" worth 1.3 euros and was going to donate to the church lottery -- only to find out that she was forbidden to put the sweater on the doll by Games controllers.
Things weren't much better at a South London café that hung five bagels clustered like the Olympic rings in its window. The Games cops were there within 20 minutes and took the display down. And in Plymouth, a restaurant was forced to take its "Flaming Torch Baguette" off the menu: the cops considered the reference to the Olympic Torch inadmissible.
As absurd is the fate of Café Olympic near the stadium in London-Stratford. The Games cops thought the name unsuitable, so owner Kamel Kichane had the "O" painted out on the shop sign. Until the end of the Games, the name of the café is Lympic.
*This is a digest item, not a direct translation