US Olympic Committee, who’s the class act now?

Forget what I said in my last post about sports and knitting in unofficial partnership!  The US Olympic Committee is not happy.  And although Olympiknits is UK-based, they had better batten down their hatches, too.

Ripped from today’s headlines (no, I’m not kidding!):

Knitters Outraged After U.S. Olympic Committee Squashes Knitting Olympics—and Disses Knitters

U.S. Olympic Committee lacks sense of humor, knitting skills

Knitting community outraged over Olympic dig; USOC apologizes

The Olympic committee decided that the term “Ravelympics” is an infringement on their legal rights, and sent a letter to the Ravelry creators informing them of this problem.  Sadly, that is not a big surprise in our litigious society.  The thing that really set people off was the customizing of the “standard-form” cease-and-desist letter that belittled knitters all over the country.

Some of my favorite bits from the letter:

“Thus, Ravelry.com’s unauthorized use of the mark OLYMPIC or derivations thereof, such as RAVELYMPICS, may constitute trademark infringement, unfair competition and dilution of our famous trademarks.”

Unfair competition? Dilution?  Whatever.

Best of all:“The Olympic Games represent ideals that go beyond sport to encompass culture and education, tolerance and respect, world peace and harmony.” 

Oops… guess they forgot about that harmony business.  Read what they said in the very next paragraph.

“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.” 

I’m really not sure where they got that idea.

And the USOC displays the embodiment of those ideals by going after a group that encourages its members to support and watch the Olympics, while participating in their own creative activity.  I’ve been aware of Ravelympics since the beginning, and trust me, there is nothing that belittles the athletes’ physical abilities and their drive to excel in their chosen sports.  The basic premise of Ravelympics is for a participating knitter to select a challenging project, cast on during the opening ceremony, knit while watching and cheering on their favorite participants, and finish the project by the closing ceremony.

Certainly the USOC has the right to defend their trademarked name, but maybe they need to focus more on true infringement, instead of this cheerful and harmless name.  Mind you, they don’t object to the activity, only the name.  They suggest changing it to “Ravelry Games”.  Does the USOC really have nothing better to do with their time and resources?  And what’s next – a campaign to rename the Greek mountain?  There’s an idea – the Greek government could bolster their economy if they sued ALL the national Olympic committees for infringement.  That could get interesting!

Anyway, the USOC immediately got a public smackdown.  Their official apology was going fairly well…

“Rest assured, as an organization that has many passionate knitters, we never intended to make this a personal attack on the knitting community or to suggest that knitters are not supportive of Team USA.”

…until the end. 

“To show our support of the Ravelry community, we would welcome any handmade items that you would like to create to travel with, and motivate, our team at the 2012 Games.”

Wow, after you insulted us, you’ll let us give you stuff?  That IS generous!

And then they had to apologize for the apology.

Just in case, dear reader, you think I’m worked up by all this, let me assure you that I’m not.  I’m simply amazed.  It’s so ridiculous, I can’t even bring myself to feel insulted.  I will definitely support those knitters who do feel the insult, though, and am very glad they are able to have their say about this whole thing!

On the flip side, it certainly has brought a lot of attention to knitters in general, and Ravelry in particular.  Not that there isn’t plenty of chatter about this, on Ravelry and elsewhere, of course, but just so you’ll know that not everyone has totally lost their grasp on reality, here’s the current topic on the Ravelry home page:

Thanks for keeping your priorities straight, Ravelry!

I don’t know, though… I’m starting to get ideas about a pattern design that features a rugged snow-covered peak.  I think I’ll name it “An Olympic View”.  So there, USOC.

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