27 November 2009

Time to Abolish the Olympics?

This is incredible:

An American author and broadcaster claims Canadian border officials questioned her about whether she would discuss the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games at a speaking engagement Wednesday evening in Vancouver.


They began to search her notes and computers and those of her two colleagues, Ms. Goodman alleged. They then photographed the journalist and gave her a stipulation to leave the country by Friday night. They were delayed over an hour.

Now, there are two explanations for this. One, is that free speech no longer exists in Canada, which is news to me. I can't imagine even the most zealous border official was really trying *in principle* to restrict Ms Goodman's general right to talk about anything.

The other possibility, seems much more likely: that this was another epiphenomenon of the Olympic trademark insanity, whereby ordinary words are suddenly forbidden to lesser mortals - unless they pay.

In other words, it is precisely the privatisation of language that is used as an analogy for the patenting of algorithms - something so manifestly absurd, that no one would ever do it. Except that in the case of anything touching the Holy Olympics, we are already there.

If it's got to the point where border officials are checking people for "prohibited Olympic words" that they may be about to use without permission, perhaps it's time to call a halt to this corporatisation of language by abolishing the Olympics in their present, hypertrophied form. How about going back to basics: a competition in Olympia, for amateurs, with none of the commercial superstructure that has accrued: just pure sport?

Too much to ask? Yes, probably, until the widespread assumption that intellectual monopolies like copyright, patents and trademarks are in some sense *good* for us, despite all evidence to the contrary, is preceived to be the con-trick it really is.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.


Chris Ward said...

So what's the deal, dear Glyn ?

Is it 'governments and corporations' ganging up against 'individuals' ?

But also never forget that governments can only govern consenting individuals; and corporations consist of individuals clinging together for mutual protection like ants in an anthill.

One of my American friends pointed out that US currency only ever has dead people pictured on it, whereas UK currency only ever has a living person as the main feature. Elizabeth R, at the moment.

There always will be a difference across the Atlantic.

And it's strange to find the Queen being the principal guarantor of freedom at the moment.

OS/2 is dead, long live Linux.

Glyn Moody said...

@chris: we certainly live in interesting times...

Unknown said...


As a Canadian citizen, I can assure you that we don't use American currency. As to who is on our currency, there's a few dead Prime Ministers, and Elizabeth Regina II.

I hadn't heard about this reporter's problem, but what Glyn suggests is possible. There's a local restaurant, opened in 1953 that used to be called "The Olympic Flame". In the run up to the Calgary Olympics (1988 Winter Games), the game organizers sued the Olympic Flame for infringing on the Olympic game trademark. There was a huge public outcry, and I think that the game organizers ended up paying the owners of the Olympic Flame to change the name, rather than being able to force them to.

Quite frankly, Trademark law has gotten ridiculous. What is needed is a change to the law, to penalize anyone who brings a suit for improper purposes, i.e. Monster Cable suing Monster Mini-Golf:

Me, I vote with my wallet. Monster Cable, and other Trademark abusers don't get my money.

nanday said...

This incident is not really surprising. As the host city, Vancouver is going to almost under martial law for the Olympics. There is a lot of paranoia.

Personally, I plan to find a nice warm bunker and food supplies for a couple of months, and not come out until it's all over.

Anonymous said...

Free speech only exists in certain conditions, let's not act like there is equality or fairness which dictates it.
Read about Ezra Levant and the Human RIghts Commissions in Canada (Levant is a serious western right winger but is spot on about this sick farce). He's also on Youtube.

As for the Olympics, Canada's partliament passed this law that made passage from the national anthem protected for the benefits of multinationals. This news barely was covered in the media in Canada.


Of course, this is Canada, where you can be a small separatist regional party which has gone over 2-3 name changes in less than two decades and no one cares but once you manage to finaggle/steal the name of a 130 yr old party, people/media will act like nothing happened. (The Conservatives now arent the old Progressive Conservative party but the part which was know as Reform, Canadian Alliance, etc)

People in Canada know more what is happening in the US than in their own country. Its just like living in Puerto Rico but with more snow.

As for the games, they are nothing more better than reality TV, the events are secondary to the human pathos TV craves and to the commercials which are the real stars.
More than half of the air time given for the olympics in Canada doesnt go to sports but to human interest stories and your chance of seeing your favorite sport for more than a few minutes are slim.

You like a certain sport? Judo? Waterpolo? Pentathlon? Etc?
Follow its world champioships instead because unless its wet young girls in diving, even younger girls in gymnastics or tall dorky nekkid beach volleyballers, you are out of luck.


Now how about an article that makes football/Linux references?


Whens the last time you read a professional athlete talking about sports, making a Linux analogy and mentioning both Tannebaum AND RMS?
On ESPN.com?

The author is a Kansas City player:

Great stuff as always and still in my top three FLOSS writers, C.Schroeder, R. Schestowitz, G. Moody.

Guy Lafleur

Glyn Moody said...

Thanks for those interesting comments. What I fear is that this is what is hurtling towards me here in London for the 2012 Olympics (doubtless I won't be able to write that last sentence soon...)

Andrew Katz said...

I personally think the Olympics is a rather bizarre gloficiation of things that human beings are outstandingly mediocre at. My cat can run faster than Usain Bolt. We can't fly, we can barely swim (we can't hold our breath for longer than a few minutes at most), and our muscles are feeble in comparison with plenty of other primates, let alone other large animals.

It's rather pathetic to watch people excel at mediocrity, and even more pathetic that people glorify these activities.

Now it's entirely possible that my view is tainted by my experiences under a succession of sadistic muscle-brained morons I had at school as PE teachers, but I have infinitely more 'spec for people who can do things that none of the other members of the animal kingdom can, like write sonnets, play blues guitar or build large hadron colliders.

On the other hand, if they gave the Olympic performers unrestricted access to performance-enhancing drugs, at least the Olympics would be entertaining.

Yes - I agree that exercise is probably good for you, but then again so is having sex and neither of them are really something you want to undertake in public.

Oh, and apparently the 2012 Olympics symbol looks like Lisa Simpson giving a blowjob and is therefore an illegal paedophile image. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/11/29/olympic_logo_lisa_simpson/

- Andrew

Glyn Moody said...

@Andrew: brilliant comment - many thanks.