You may have heard of The Millennium Dome, a grandiose tent that was built in London to house an exhibition to celebrate the arrival of the year 2000. After the show closed, the venue stood empty for a few years until it was bought by a property developer, turned into an entertainment complex and given a new name when U.K. mobile network O2 bought the naming rights in a deal worth £6 million ($9 million) each year. Now “The O2” has the sort of must-attend venue that hosts all kinds of music, sporting and cultural events.
Except when it doesn’t.
With the London Olympics just around the corner, O2’s naming rights are being whipped away from it as the International Olympic Committee continues its quest to try and be the craziest organization the planet.
Not content with trying to ban user-generated content of The Games and policing the use of phrases like “London” and “2012” in the same sentence, official Olympic literature has now erased any reference to the name of The O2 and called it “the North Greenwich Arena” instead.
It sounds a little odd, but in fact there is some logic. According to the IOC, it’s all about keeping the Games free of corporate blemish: the rules state that the names of venues should remain free from sponsorship.
And that would all make sense… if it were not for the fact that the Olympics are horribly tarnished from top to bottom with corporate branding.
For example, the O2 name change was spotted in the wild on London Tube maps by Darren Lewis. London blogger Diamond Geezer pointed out that while The O2 has been renamed on the map, the same location also boasts that it’s the location for the Emirates Air Line — a new cable car route across the river Thames sponsored by the Middle Eastern Airline.
Seems fairly hypocritical to me.
In fact, everywhere you turn, the Olympics are festooned with crass sponsorships. The official mobile company of London 2012? Samsung. The official sculpture? The Arcelor-Mittal Orbit. Oh, and don’t turn up wanting to use a Mastercard at a cash machine, because all of the non-Visa ATMs at Olympic venues are being closed as part of the card company’s sponsorship deal.
This Millennium Dome deal is not a shock for O2: it knew about it back in 2005 when it signed the deal. But that doesn’t make it any less silly to apply these branding rules in such an odd, arbitrary way.
Olympic handcuffs copyright anbibyte / Shutterstock