Before blogging about the Ravelympics kerfuffle I decided to let my thoughts marinate a'la Jennifer Stein. I lacked that level of restraint on twitter because it was easy to spout off 140 characters when I am hot under the collar. After a good night's sleep and a little thought I feel ready to weigh in with my two cents.
For those who don't know (though in my world I imagine everyone has heard and are equally outraged), the U.S. Olympics Committee (USOC) sent a cease-and-desist letter to Ravelry. That is a knitting social network whose members organize a knitting event called "Ravelympics." Members are called ravelers and I proud to count among their numbers.
Ravelympics is an activity not a competition that is a global watching party paired with a crafty endeavor. Knitters and crocheters challenge themselves to complete a project in the 16-day time period of the Olympics. Projects are cast-on during the opening ceremony and hopefully completed before the closing ceremony ends. It is a challenge but also a way to encourage members of the 2 million plus community to support the Olympic games.
It appears the USOC feels very differently. The cease and desist letter made that very clear by characterizing the event as insulting to the athletes;
"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, like many others understand they want to protect their trademark. They have a history of being aggressive in their efforts consider Olympic Cellars (a winery at the foot of the Olympic Mountains) or the Gay Olympics now called the Gay Games. We Ravelers would have understood and being a creative lot come up with a different name. The sticky widget has been the tone of the letter. Though the USOC maintains it was a standard cease and desist no one is buying it.
Eventually, a non-apology apology was issued followed by a second apology;
"We apologize for any insult and appreciate your support. We embrace hand-crafted American goods as we currently have the Annin Flagmakers of New Jersey stitching a custom-made American flag to accompany our team to the Olympic Games in London. 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.”
The request for the sane handmade goods which were such an insult sent athletes was for lack of a better term pretty damn ballsy.
The USOC, taking a play from the Susan G. Komen PR playbook, has shot themselves in the foot by angering the knitters and crocheter who planned to watch the Olympic games while working on their project. That includes watching commercials from sponsors such as McDonald's, Pampers, Tide, DeVry University (not lying, I swear), Coca-Cola and many more.
Seriously, isn't McDonald's as the official restaurant insulting to athletes and frankly, restaurants.
And don't get me started on the daiper. Too late! Yes folks there is an official USOC approved daiper. So to be clear knitters and crocheters watching the game while engaging in ther craft is deningrating. A child literally pooping on a US Olympic team logo and being called an athlete not the least bit demeaning.
As an American living overseas I loved that the Ravelympics brought the veiwing party with all it's enthusiasm across the miles to my home. I felt connected with fellow countrymen and women but also enjoyed hearing from others as they root for country or their favorite athlete. It truly embodied the spirit of the games.
I am sad that the USOC's actions have robbed me of that joy this year. I am even sadder to know they don't care. As a supporter of various charities I can assure you and the USOC that they lost a potential supporter.
For the record, I did not get the USOC's permission to use the words Olympics or Ravelry in my post. If they have a problem with it they can sue me.