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5 Bizarre Rules for the London Olympics

The mascots for the London Olympics. And no, we have no idea what they’re supposed to look like either.

Tonight, the world’s attention with be focused on London, host of the 30th Olympiad. Though women’s soccer and a few other sports have already begun, Friday night’s opening ceremonies are a chance for the host country to show off their penchant for meticulously choreographed drum exhibitions, or if you’re London, to imagine what it might be like if Mary Poppins got in a fight with Voldemort. Pretty excited for that one.

While we can’t give you any insight into who will win the 400m or the women’s backstroke, we can share with you some wonderfully bizarre rules and laws in effect at the 2012 London Olympics. Here are our five favorites.

1. Behold: The Coca-Cola Police

Imagine that you’re an Olympic pole vaulter. You’re nervous because your event is tomorrow, so you take to Twitter to interact with your fans.

“Just enjoying a Cliff Bar before bed. Wish me luck!”

And just like that, you broke the law.

The Olympics this year have enacted some surprisingly specific bylaws to protect their sponsors. Athletes are not allowed to mention non-sponsor brands, even on their own social media outlets, regardless of which companies they themselves are sponsored by.

But it doesn’t stop there. Non-sponsor companies aren’t allowed to mention the “2012 Games” or images associated with the Olympics. Ticket holders—as in crowd members—aren’t allowed to “broadcast or publish video or sound recording” or participate in any coordinated marketing effort (such as ten co-workers wearing the shirts of their company).

As with so many laws, the enforcement is the key. We’ll keep our eyes out for stories, but we can’t imagine any athletes being disqualified for posting a Facebook status about Wheatables. Just don’t expect that status to stay up for long.

2. Welcome to the Lodnon 2102 Oimplycs!

Ok. Taht’s raelly fnuny. Nice job, Foucs Fomral Ware

So what’s an enterprising shop owner to do? Pretend the Olympics aren’t happening? Or skirt the law with some purposeful dyslexia?

If you take a look at the picture to your right, you’ll find the answer to the question. Whether or not London’s brand police will allow this to stand (or any of the other tongue-in-cheek Olympic references around London the next couple weeks) is anyone’s guess.

3. Competing under the 5 Rings

Many of us take our citizenship for granted. If I qualified for the Olympic table tennis competition, for example, I know I’d be competing as an American. I also know I’d be losing, but that’s not the point here. The question is: what happens to refugees or people from nations “not eligible for inclusion into the Olympics”?

The answer: they compete under the Olympic flag.

This year, at least four athletes will be doing so. Three are from Netherlands Antilles, a country which dissolved last year. Going forward, they’ll compete under the flag of either the Netherlands or Aruba.

But the case of Guor Marial is a first. Marial is a refugee, now living in the US, who originally hails from South Sudan. South Sudan is recently independent and doesn’t have an Olympic body yet, and since Marial lost nearly thirty family members to the violence in the Sudan and has no desire to fly the flag of that nation, Marial will be running under the Olympic rings.

“The South Sudan has finally got a spot in the world community. Even though I will not carry their flag in this Olympic Games, the country itself is there,” he said in a recent interview.

It’ll be hard not to root for him.

4. No French Fries for You

We already mentioned the ‘brand police’ above, but this story deserved its own call-out. McDonald’s–an Olympic sponsor since the mid ’70s–has exclusive rights to sell french fries at the Olympics. That’s right: nobody else can sell french fries. That’d be like Pizza Hut keeping mom and pop pizzerias from selling pepperoni pies for three weeks. It’s not the end of the world, we realize, but it’s certainly bizarre.

That said, most people are aware that the British have a fondness for fries—called ‘chips’ in the English vernacular–and the same group that runs the brand police has successfully petitioned for one exception: you can sell fries only if they’re included with fish.

In other words, breathe a sigh of relief, Londoners. Your fish and chips are safe.

5. The Long, Strange Saga of Oscar Pistorius

Every four years, there’s a handful of athletes who capture the world’s attention. In 1992, it was the Dream Team. In 2008, Michael Phelps and Usian Bolt were appointment TV. And this year, you can bet that Oscar Pistorius will be included in that club.

Pistorius will become the first double amputee runner at the Olympic Games. He’ll be competing in both the 400 meter and 400 meter relay races for South Africa on a pair of prosthetics called the “Cheetah Flex-Foot.” Watching him run is a truly breathtaking experience.

But it hasn’t been smooth sailing for Pistorius. In fact, for a while, he was banned from competition, as some believed his prosthetics actually gave him an advantage. In 2007, the body which governs these decisions (the IAAF) banned the use of “any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels, or any element that provides a use with an advantage over another athlete not using such a device.” After Pistorius submitted to a battery of tests, the ban remained.

But the tests were flawed. They only tested the South African when he was running full-speed in a straight line. In turns out there are real disadvantages to the prosthetics when Pistorius is accelerating and rounding corners, feats he needs to perform when running the 400. The earlier decision was reversed on appeal and set the stage for his historic runs this summer.

Enjoy the Games, everyone. And if you’re lucky enough to be London, that goes double. Just don’t bother wearing that Burger King t-shirt. We wouldn’t want you to get arrested.

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