ECONOMY

Athens 2004 clamps down on distributors of pirate products

Athens 2004, the organizing team of the Olympic Games, is running a vigorous campaign against pirate products bearing the official signs of the event, as well as those using them in all kinds of forms to tout their trade; the Financial Crimes Squad last week confiscated the largest quantity to date of pirate gear – more than 100 boxes of it. To be sure, on several occasions the strict agreements of Athens 2004 with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the use of the Olympic signs create problems even for those wishing to use the date 2004 in products or services, or add the word «Olympic» to their firm’s name. According to these agreements, only specific companies – such as official sponsors and suppliers – have the right to circulate products or services with the Olympic signs; for instance, only Alpha Bank, the official bank of the Games, can issue credit cards with the official Athens 2004 logo, and only OTE Telecom and its mobile subsidiary CosmOTE, which are official sponsors, can use the event for their advertising campaign. Moreover, a number of firms have signed agreements with Athens 2004 to use the signs on products from coffee cups and dolls to keyholders. Some will go even further, like the pharmaceuticals firm which claimed in an advertising campaign to have undertaken to supply medicines to athletes of the 2004 Paralympic Games. It withdrew the campaign after Athens 2004 protested. The same happened with mobile telephony operator Stet Hellas, which advertised a «Sports Sponsoring program 2000-2004,» and with Vernikos Yachts, which offered a cruise during the Games as a lottery prize. IOC also targeted a mid-sized bank which issued a credit card claiming sponsorship of a championship in a particular sport. Its advertising campaign for the card included many references to the Olympic Games which had to change after Athens 2004 intervened. According to the agreements with the organizers, even the shops legally selling the official 2004 products are forbidden to advertise them, as did an outlet in Athens’s Plaka district. There are also cases of businesses that do not not have any kind of contract with the organizers; like the one from the suburb of Maroussi, where the Olympic Stadium is located, who advertised in the local press that he was making the badges for the Olympiad; or the one in the port of Rafina who was selling gifts painted with the mascot of the Games. They both had to recall them. A number of firms failed in their bids to obtain licenses for brand names connected with the Olympics and 2004 or had licenses recalled; such cases included «Beer 2004» and «Cafe 2004.» Athens courts have dealt with several cases concerning the use of Olympic logos on the Internet; electronic addresses like Olympic2004.gr, 2004athens.net and 2004Olympics.gr were withdrawn after applications by the organizers. Finally, an Athens tourist coach driver was sentenced to eight months in jail after failing to comply with a court order to remove Olympic signs from the vehicle; the coach was confiscated.