Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The summer of love?

The Olympic organisers have banned summer.

This presumably comes as no surprise to anyone who has actually stepped outside over the last few weeks. By no stretch of the imagination could the relentless deluge that has characterised the last few weeks be described as a summer.

But now we know why.

"Summer" is apparently part of the Olympic brand. As are "2012", "gold", "silver", "bronze" and various other bits of vaguely games-related vocabulary. And the Olympic brand must be protected at all costs. Retailers and advertisers have been warned against trying to associate themselves too closely with the games. It would, after all, be disastrous if several hundred thousand spectators mistook a chip-shop in Skegness for one of the iconic Olympic venues due to the creative use of onion rings and golden breadcrumbs to create a games-themed feast. The implications for loss of revenue could be staggering.

And the queues for haddock and pickled eggs would be terrible.

Apparently hundreds of "brand police" will be lurking, ready to pounce at the first sign
of unauthorised Olympic-themed fun. I rather picture them looking a bit like the childcatcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. (On a side issue, never EVER tell your small child that a vintage car looks like that famous automobile. I am looking forward to explaining his choice new bit of vocabulary to the nursery this week) I can just imagine them peering in through windows, their net twitching, ready to snare the unwary, like this retailer or this one.

It's all a bit humourless really. Do they really think people have a finite amount of Olympic goodwill? Will purchasing a cupcake with edible gold balls sprinkled on the top really render someone immune to the lure of an official McOlympicBurger? And will looking at a torch-themed window display in a florists really cause someone to boycott all other games-related merchandise?

But if the Olympics can declare ownership over several perfectly normal words in the English language, I don't see why I can't do the same.

I am therefore awarding myself exclusive rights to the words "legume", "vermillion", "onomatopoeic" and "sideways". If anyone uses two or more of these words in the same sentence or phrase, I shall sue them for infringement of my personal copyright.

Actually, I will probably give them a prize. I'm not convinced it can be done. Not without some serious grammatical contortionism anyway.

At least my ringfencing of those four words is unlikely to give anyone any serious issues regarding getting their point across. The Olympic vocabulary ban is another matter. For one thing, how far does it extend? Are they policing social media? Will I get a visit from the little purple policemen if I point out, for example, that later in the SUMMER, you know this one, this one in 2012, HWSNBN and I will be attending the OLYMPIC GAMES to watch Phelan Hill of LONDON rowing club competing in the hope of winning a GOLD medal? Will I be forced to edit this statement to "Later in the season which is supposed to be warmer than the ones on either side of it but currently isn't, in this year which falls between 2011 and 2013, HWSNBN and I might attend a certain rowing event which is particularly well attended by various international teams, to watch Phelan Hill, of a club that shares its name with England's largest city, in the hope that he might be given a pretty, shiny thing to take home with him"?

I am rather taken with Waterstones who recently tweeted "So, as we can't say the name of the big sporting event because we're not a sponsor, we shall call it Voldesport. It which cannot be named!"

You would have thought that the Olympics organisers would have learned something from the recent Jubilee celebrations where the UK demonstrated just how good it is at getting behind big events. There could not have been a single retailer over the entire country that did not jump on the Jubilee bandwagon and their customers loved it. It would have put a bit of a dampener on things if the Queen had stomped out onto the balcony of Buckingham Palace and read out a list of "Words that One is only allowed to say Oneself, thank you very much, good subjects", including "red", "white", "blue" and "Thank you, Your Majesty".

People love to feel part of something big. Everyone wants a little bit of the Olympics, and drinking a cocktail entitled "The Usain Bolter" in their local pub is probably more likely to make them embrace the games. If a little purple-clad jobs-body pops up and snatches it out of their hand before issuing the landlady with a £20,000 fine for brand-infringement, I would imagine their national spirit would probably take a bit of a battering.

I've thought of some more words I'm going to make my own.

How about "Bah" and "Humbug".


  1. You've totally captured the mood of many people unfortunately. It does all seem very greedy on the sponsorship front. Really hope people start to focus on the real spirit of the games soon though!

  2. Great post, I absolutely agree (and have written a similar rant about the Games).

  3. It is very Voldemorty, isn't it? The Event-Which-Cannot-Be-Named and the You-Know-Whats.

  4. I rather like the idea someone on Mumsnet came up with - that we all get subversive t-shirts with "Ylompics" on them and wear them at all possible opportunities!