The Olympics are a golden target for art satire

 

Here are some Olympic images that organizers have not approved: A hooded youth making off with an Olympic ring; the same multicolored hoops turned into toasters; a dog doing something a bit rude to a London 2012 mascot.

The guardians of the games are vigilant about protecting the integrity — and the commercial clout — of the Olympic brand. But even they can't stop the irreverent spirit of artists and craftspeople, who have responded to the games with a cheeky mix of celebration, skepticism and satire.

One street artwork in the southwest England city of Bristol — attributed to the artist Criminal Chalklist and reproduced on T-shirts for sale in London street markets — shows a masked and hooded youth sneaking off with one of the five Olympic rings.

Another T-shirt depicts The Beatles crossing a London street in the famous photo from the cover of "Abbey Road," the Olympic rings tucked under their arms.

Other images that have sprung up around east London — home to many of the city's artists as well as to the July 27-Aug. 12 Summer Games. Those include the rings turned into kitchen appliances by the Toaster street-art collective and Teddy Baden's painting of an amorous canine's encounter with one-eyed mascot Mandeville.

"It's just a cheeky little thing," said Baden, who like many here admits to having an ambivalent attitude to the games. "It's a quite British thing to kind of take the mick (poke fun) a bit. It's not malicious."

That humorous sprit may be why much of London's games-themed street art has managed to escape the attention of Olympic brand enforcers, who are zealous about defending trademarks of the event and its sponsors.

Lee Bofkin of the Global Street Art website said officials probably don't want to appear heavy-handed.

"It wouldn't help uphold the commercial interests of the sponsors to persecute the artists," he said.

Business owners who fall foul of stringent Olympic branding rules have not been so lucky. A law passed by the British government ahead of the games gives organizers the power to bar companies from using the Olympic trademarks and even certain combinations of words, such as "Higher, Faster, Stronger" and "London 2012."

Enforcement can be stringent to the point of farce. A London diner called the Olympic Cafe was forced to change its name — it's now the 'Lympic — while a lingerie store in central England was told to remove a window display that used five hula hoops and some sports bras as a tribute to the Olympic rings

Within the 500-acre (200-hectare) Olympic Park, food vendors other than sponsor McDonald's are barred from selling french fries — except as part of the traditional supper of fish and chips. The chip ban caused outrage among staff working on the opening and closing ceremonies, who succeeded in having the rule temporarily relaxed.

Companies like McDonald's, Coca-Cola and Samsung pay as much as $100 million each to be official sponsors during each Olympic cycle, and expect organizers to protect their rights.

The logos of rival companies are banned from Olympic Park, and from an "advertising and street trade restriction zone" around the venues.

Spectators are not immune from the restrictions. London organizers have drawn up an extensive list of forbidden items inside Olympic venues, which includes not just weapons and noisemakers but "any objects or clothing bearing political statements or overt commercial identification intended for 'ambush marketing."'

Even in this environment of extreme trademark vigilance, knitters are the last people one would expect to become Olympic outlaws. But that is exactly what happened to a group of wool-working enthusiasts who decided to celebrate the games with a knitting challenge called the Ravelympics.

Organizers of the contest — in which participants are challenged to complete a personal knitting project over the 17 days of the games — were shocked last month to receive a letter from lawyers for the U.S. Olympic Committee, ordering them to rename the event because it was "disrespectful" and denigrated the name of the Olympic Games.

Donna Bowman, one of the organizers, said knitters understood the Olympic committee's need to protect its trademarks — but were angered by the suggestion their craft competition was mocking the games.

"The cease-and-desist letter seemed to go out of its way to suggest the events we were doing — like an afghan marathon or a handspun heptathlon — were somehow jokes that were intended to parody or disrespect the Olympics," she said. "That's not how people feel about it at all."

Eventually, a spirit of Olympic compromise prevailed. Organizers renamed their event the Ravellenic Games, and the Olympic Committee apologized for its heavy-handed approach.

Bowman said in their rush to judgment, Olympic authorities had missed the point of the knit-a-thon — people want to embrace the spirit of the games and get involved.

"People feel like the Olympics don't just belong to (broadcaster) NBC and to the committees and the people that license stuff," she said. "It's a part of culture, not just a part of commerce."

AP

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)

comedy

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own