The Olympics are well known for representing high level of achievement. The sad thing is that these days, that achievement is more about how strenuously Olympic organizers protect the commercial side of the games, trampling anything that gets in the way, like free speech or other laws. Now, plenty of other sports groups are following the Olympics' lead and imposing all sorts of restrictions on athletes and the media, all in the name of "protecting" their sponsors or other commercial images. The Pan American Games are following the Olympics' lead and banning athletes from blogging, while other groups like the organizers of the Rugby World Cup are placing restrictions on how many photos media outlets can publish online. That group is also putting restrictions on how outlets that get media credentials can print photos: they demand that headlines not be superimposed on them, in case type blocks out a sponsor's logo. This is all getting a little bit silly. While realizing that these events are massive commercial undertakings and, at their heart, businesses, the groups putting them on need to realize that they've become so big, in part, because of all the free marketing they receive from the media. Alienating the press and restricting how they cover events in the name of "control" won't grow revenues, it will ultimately hurt the sports and events. But don't think that the Olympics are standing still. As part of their efforts to get special trademark protection for words like "winter" in advance of the 2010 winter games in Vancouver, organizers are asking for the ability to circumvent the legal process by getting injunctions against people they think are infringing their trademarks without having to prove harm. A Canadian civil servant defends the proposed legislation by saying it's necessary to protect the Olympic brand and the games from ambush advertising. But who protects citizens from the Olympics when the law won't?
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