Hammer but no Horror: a personal view of the Olympics

The IPKat has written at length about the Olympic Games (see eg posts here, here, here, here and here) -- but he has been too busy meditating about the event's many economic and legal ramifications to tear himself away from his secret thoughts and actually experience it first-hand.  He is therefore indebted to katfriend and patent-y person Catriona Hammer for the following subjective assessment of what it's like to be involved.  Writes Catriona:
"Inside the Monster

The Olympics have taken over London and, in spite of or perhaps because of the usual moans and grumbles about transport and the weather, we are actually enjoying the show! There have been many articles about policing the Olympic brand, and preventing ambush marketing, but what is the view from the inside? I spent the last couple of weeks working for an IOC member, so here are some of the things I learned.

Firstly the sheer scale of the operation is almost overwhelming. The IOC held meetings in London during the week before the opening ceremony, so many of us were working before the games officially started. There are approximately 70,000 [katnote: that's more than twice the population of San Marino] volunteers working on the games. Some are based at sports venues, but many more are working behind the scenes.

Between 16 July and 6 August, 564 MRI scans, 259 x-rays, 254 ultrasound examinations and 58 CT scans were performed on athletes. All of the equipment is, of course, protected by patents registered designs and trade marks.

There is an enormous car-park under Hyde Park that is completely filled by BMWs in Olympic livery. Every night the cars are “cleaned” which means they are checked for listening devices amongst other things – some volunteers are spending the entire Olympics in that car-park and they are still smiling. Sadly the cars aren’t cleaned in the literal sense. The volunteer drivers need to wash them, using an Olympic sponsor car wash, which is not at all close to Hyde Park! The cars are adapted to run on biofuel as well as normal diesel and have a special additional Sat Nav that directs them on to routes with those controversial Olympic lanes.

There has been much comment in the media about empty seats, but most IOC members are attending as many events as possible – they simply can’t be at several venues at once and if any reader has learned how to do that please do let me in on the secret [Einstein the incredibly sage and well-read Merpel says it can be done: the secret is known to all good readers of The Independent, here]. They are also getting to grips with the time it takes to get from one side of London to another; fortunately I’m used to managing the expectations of business leaders so was able to politely explain to my IOC client that it would take (considerably) more than 20 minutes to drive from Wimbledon to Stratford.

So what about the food? It’s awful. That was definitely the worst thing about the whole experience. Volunteers have “special” workforce canteens which reminded me of everything I hated about school dinners. Quite frankly it would have been a relief if one of the Olympic sponsors had taken over the catering (and this comes from a vegetarian).

In fact the Corporate branding of the sponsors was pretty low key from the inside. Our equipment was all provided by sponsors (note to Adidas – please make trainers and trousers in smaller sizes!) but at the end of the day the only brand that mattered was the Olympic brand and that’s how it should be.

The volunteers gave up time but gained in experience and made new friends -- my IOC member and his daughter took me out for a delicious Slovakian meal after I finished my session and I have promised to show her around the prime shopping spots next time she’s in London.

Throughout the games it was fantastic to see how far you could get with a smile and courtesy – I managed to make my way into the Olympic stadium for Super Saturday and the fabulous Usain Bolt on Sunday, not to mention watching Andy Murray win at Wimbledon. There were early starts and late finishes and sports that I’d never watched before; canoe slalom was a revelation. When I eventually attended an event with my husband as a paying spectator (team show-jumping) I had a much better appreciation about all the work that was going on behind the scenes. Of course the Olympics aren’t perfect, but they are amazing and well worth celebrating. I would encourage anyone who gets an opportunity to volunteer in future to hop skip and jump at it. Good luck and best wishes to Sochi and Rio for 2014 and 2016".
Thanks, Catriona, for giving us this vivid impression of what the Olympics are like for those poor unfortunates who can't sit at home and watch it all on the telly ...

Hammer Horror here
Hammer but no Horror: a personal view of the Olympics Hammer but no Horror: a personal view of the Olympics Reviewed by Jeremy on Friday, August 10, 2012 Rating: 5


  1. Here is a contribution to the Olympics theme:

    Marketa Trimble

  2. I had one experience of (perhaps over zealous) brand protection at the Olympics. As no liquids were allowed to be taken in unless under 100mls, I took to the sailing at Weymouth two empty plastic drinks bottles to fill with water once I got inside the venue. At security my first bottle was deemed unacceptable because it had a “Highland Spring” label on it. Clearly they thought this was a single-handed attempt at ambush marketing. So it was not allowed into the Olympics until the label was removed. However, since my second bottle was branded “Coca Cola” it was allowed to enter the venue unaltered.

    Strangely a few days earlier “Highland Spring” was not considered a risk to Olympic Park and no labels were removed when I went to the swimming.

    They were selling unbranded Pimms at the venues. I am not sure how this is possible since the recipe is supposed to be a secret, so how could it be anything else? It was simply the same Pimms sold as “No 1 Cup”.


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