Logo cops in overdrive at Olympics

By Published on .

The most important piece of equipment for athletes and coaches at the Winter Olympics turned out to be tape: preferably black electrical, silver duct or anything opaque.

The Logo Cops were out in force in Turin the last 17 days, forcing athletes, coaches, spectators and even The Great One-hockey legend Wayne Gretzky-to cover up logos from marketers who were not official sponsors of the Olympics. Italian companies weren't even given the home-field advantage. American skier Bode Miller had to cover the logo on his helmet for Barilla, one of his largest sponsors and Italy's biggest pasta maker.

It was an unprecedented crackdown to protect what was a combined $4 billion investment from official sponsors and NBC Universal, which owns U.S. broadcast rights to the Games. Even Coca-Cola Co., which is an official International Olympic Committee sponsor, was not immune. Organizers told figure-skating judges, for instance, not to have Coke bottles in view when cameras panned to them.

All told, the IOC and the Turin Organizing Committee had a small army of "brand police" out to protect its total of 62 partners, sponsors and suppliers.

"The IOC works hard to protect the investment of our partners. Without their contribution the Olympic Games couldn't happen in the way they do," said IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies.

Spectators unaware of the crackdown became involved as well. According to a report by Reuters, 10 fans clustered in one section of the Palavela to watch skating last week were wearing hats bearing the logo of Dutch beer maker Heineken. They were told to turn the hats around-or leave.

And as for Mr. Gretzky? As executive director of Canada's men's hockey team, he showed up for early-round games wearing logos from Roots, the Canadian clothing company. Mr. Gretzky has a personal deal with Roots, but Hudson Bay Co. is the official Olympic clothing sponsor.

He was politely asked not to show up in Roots clothing again.

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