The Ottumwa Courier

AP Sports

February 18, 2014

Olympians tiptoe around sponsorship ban

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Want to see the glasses and goggles that aerials skier Lydia Lassila and snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis wore at the Sochi Olympics? If you go to the website of the company that manufactures their eyewear, you might be in for a shock.

On the Australian section of Bolle.com, photos of Lassila, Jacobellis and other competitors at the Sochi Games have been digitally blurred to obscure their faces.

This isn't a throwback to the days when Soviet propaganda chiefs airbrushed people out of photos. It's an extreme application of regulations meant to make sure that companies such as Bolle, which do not sponsor the Olympics, don't get to advertise off the back of them.

So the Olympics are a Pepsi-free zone, because Coca-Cola is an Olympic sponsor. In Sochi's Olympic Park, only Visa cards work for payments or in ATMs, again because Visa is a sponsor. At one Sochi venue, an Olympic worker even slapped a white sticker over the Dell logo on a journalist's laptop, because the computer manufacturer isn't an Olympic sponsor.

For Olympians, the dense and confusing thicket of rules severely restricting advertising is a serious issue. In theory, Olympians could be disqualified if they use the games to plug non-approved brands. The International Olympic Committee even holds athletes responsible for how their sponsors behave outside the Olympic bubble.

Rule 40 of the IOC charter states: "Except as permitted by the IOC executive board, no competitor, coach, trainer or official who participates in the Olympic Games may allow his person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games."

The rule means athletes cannot allow their images to be used for any commercial advertising, whether Olympic-related or not, for the duration of the blackout period. Even physical advertising such as billboards and magazines are covered, though it's not clear how that would work logistically.

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