#charityfail: The Olympic Edition

Saddle up folks. As case studies go, this one is a riot.

Ravelry is a website for knitters and crocheters. Snigger if you want, but I’m a proud member. I even gave Ravelry props in my NXNEi panel for how they handled a password breach a few months ago. In years past, the Ravelry community hosted the Ravelympics. Participants start a challenging project on at the beginning of the Olympics, and work to complete it before the end of the closing ceremonies.

Well, the US Olympic Committee got wind of this, and sent Ravelry a cease and desist letter.

Its main complaint was the use of the term “Olympics” (well, “-ympics”) in Ravelympics, and the fact that some of the patterns available on Ravelry include the Olympic five-ring symbol. The US Olympic committee (surprisingly, not the IOC) insisted all offending patterns be removed, and Ravelympics find another name. I’m not sure how the US Olympic Committee lays claim to the term “Olympics” or the five-ring logo, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.

It’s interesting to note that things like the Guelph Science Olympics and the Olympics of Visual Art have yet to be picked on by the Olympics committee (US, International, or Canadian). But other groups have been caught out – like these bakers, who were told they had to remove any and all referenced to the Olympics from their competition.

That is the saddest baker I have ever seen.

I believe Ravelry will change the name of the Ravelympics, and remove the infringing patterns. Where the US Olympic Committee really managed to screw up was in paragraph six of their legalese-laden C & D sent to Ravelry:

We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games.  In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.

Knitters and crocheters took to twitter and Facebook like so many men and women scorned. And many echoed my thoughts here. In general, folks accept Ravelry should/will respect the US Olympic Committee’s claim to the five-ring logo and even the term Olympics (which goes back to the ancient Greeks…). It’s hard to pull the “woe is us, non-profit organization” card and bring up major sponsors like Nike and Ralph Lauren in the same letter, but the US Olympic Committee managed to do that too.

Fine, US Olympic Committee, we get it. We’ll cooperate. But, in official terms, you don’t have to be a dick about it. (Yes, it’s the “It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it” argument.)

@USOlympic trended on twitter. A quick scope of its feed will show this is purely because of the Ravelry fiasco. Folks sharing the story, the disbelief, some choice words, and calling for a boycott of US Olympic sponsors. As of yet there hasn’t been a peep from the US Olympic Committee – and this hit twitter several hours ago. In social media terms, this is an eternity.

For your entertainment information, some screenshots:

Sorry, the online knitting community isn’t a polite group of little old ladies. Ravelry’s user base is 2 million tech-savvy creative types, who you’ve just accused of denigrating a nation’s athletes by knitting. You’ve called them disrespectful for challenging themselves as a group to knit one, purl two.

I await with baited breath for the US Olympic Committee’s reaction to the reaction.

UPDATE: In a year when the Olympics are set to implement social media in a more pervasive way than ever before, @USOlympic should really take notice that this is what appears when you search their handle:

UPDATE: I just wanted to share this awesome picture by Lucy, which pretty much sums it up. UPDATE: The US Olympic Committee apologizes. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than most corporate apologies.


13 thoughts on “#charityfail: The Olympic Edition

  1. Very well written! Well. I WILL be knitting while I watch the Olympics now. I usually never take the time to watch it due to a busy schedule, but ain’t nobody gonna tell me what to knit or not when I watch TV! I’ll be in my living room, in Bergen, Norway, and I might or might not knit something with circles on it. If I’m not allowed to do that, anyone who wants to complain can come tell me themselves. And also:

    And yes, I’m being infantile about it, but then again, so are they.

  2. In England, we have a specially appointed “Brand Police” to stop anyone except the official sponsors making any money off the Olympics. And we have missiles on top of our houses! And all the good tickets have gone to tout firms and fat corporates! And they’ve told us not to bother using public transport during the games because they will be full up of the tourists we want to fleece until their teeth rattle!

    • Wild how commercial the Olympics have become – to the point even that events that mention the Olympics, that don’t even profit from that mention, are told off.

  3. Pingback: Social Media #EpicFail 2: Inigo Montoya Edition « Brunel's Ghost

  4. Pingback: #charityfail: The Olympic Edition (part two) | emmajenkin

  5. Pingback: Bad Form, USOC! | Lucymade

  6. Pingback: Two pointy sticks | emmajenkin

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