Olympic ubiquitous in Greece

The Olympic Games have not been staged in the Greek capital since the 19th century but the casual visitor could be forgiven for thinking they had never left. Stepping off an Olympic Airways flight and into an Olympian limousine, you can be whisked to your choice of the Royal Olympic or Olympic Palace hotels in the city center. For tourists going island-hopping, there are Royal Olympic Cruises and for business people there is Olympic DDB, the Greek affiliate of major advertising agency BMP DDB or the Technical Olympic construction firm. Ten months before the Games return to their birthplace, the rest of the world may see the Olympics as a global brand but to Greeks they are as Hellenic as Zorba. «The word Olympic offers instant international recognition and is attached to noble Olympic values and, from a Greek perspective, images of glory and pride,» said George Frangakis, an advertising executive at Olympic DDB. «In branding terms, the word has provided a definite Greek badge of origin,» he added. The universal appeal of the ultimate Greek brand name has led to its widespread application in the country that gave birth to the ancient Games. While the rest of the world succumbed to Beatlemania, Greece’s flower-power generation were rocking to the music of the «Olympians» with 1960s hits such as «Go Man Go.» When in 1925 two sports clubs in the port of Piraeus merged to create what would go on to become the country’s dominant sporting power, there was only one name they had in mind: Olympiakos. The emblem of Greece’s most widely supported club, with hugely successful soccer and basketball teams, features a youthful head crowned with the olive wreath given to victors in the ancient Olympics held in Olympia. The track and field department of Olympiakos includes Sydney 200-meter gold medalist Costas Kenteris. Kenteris’s victory was celebrated by naming a sleek new ferry after him. The Aeolos Kenteris is naturally a high-speed vessel. Throughout the world, the five-ring flag invented by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the man behind the modern Olympics revival in 1896, is the jealously guarded intellectual property of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). But in Greece it adorns everything from matchboxes to the tail planes of airliners. The country’s unique relationship with the «O» word has led to a softening of the usually strict copyright rules of the IOC. «The overall financing of the Olympic movement is based on the trademarks and images being protected,» an IOC spokesman told Reuters. «(In Greece) an element of common sense must prevail in distinguishing between deliberate ambush attempts and the longstanding use by a taverna calling itself the Olympic taverna,» he added. This will come as a relief to Hassan, an Egyptian immigrant, who works at the «Olympic Falafel House» behind the capital’s central market. «The name was the first thing we thought of when we thought of Greece,» he explained. However, Athens Olympics organizers (ATHOC) are not treading softly with counterfeit merchandisers despite the country’s poor reputation on copyright enforcement. In 1997, when Greece won the right to stage next year’s Games, it was still on the US government’s 301 program, a list of intellectual property blackspots. Fellow pariahs included Bolivia, Paraguay and South Africa. But in the flea markets of Monastiraki, famous for their brand-name replicas, the only Athens 2004 products on view are authentic. From T-shirts to key rings, all merchandise comes with its own ATHOC authenticity hologram. Once the Games are over and «product protection» squads from ATHOC are gone, however, the bootleggers are expected to reappear.