Drop That Unauthorized Keychain, Or We’ll Shoot!

Canada is no United States, but they’re learning. For instance, what’s the fun in having free speech if you can’t trample on it and throw it in the garbage when the need suits you? The IOC and the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee asked themselves that very question recently, and came up with a devilish plan.

The 2010 Vancouver OOC will be sending roving teams of observers throughout the city before and during the games, but they’ll have the power to do more than observe. Selling an Olympic Teddy Bear with an unauthorized Vancouver 2010 logo? We’re confiscating that (grabs bear, kicks you in shin). But that’s not all.

These Olympic watchdogs will also have the power to confiscate/rip up/burn/dance upon any signage that is political, religious or commercial in nature. This is not just in effect at the Olympic venues; it’s all over Vancouver. In other words, free speech is taking a holiday for about a month.

The IOC directive was obtained by CBC News through a Freedom of Information request. A central focus of the so-called clean-venues guidelines is stopping “ambush marketing” and ensuring that non-Olympic sponsors don’t try to hitch a free ride on the Games.

“Brand protection teams of two or more members will conduct surveillance on foot, within and around each venue or cluster of venues, at neighbouring areas and in the city to ensure that venues are clean internally, to carry out surveillance for incidents of ambush marketing and to handle and report such activity in the appropriate manner with the goal of ceasing such activity,” the IOC document says.

This is fascinating, actually. Forget the actual games; I want to be on hand when British Columbia teachers, protesting millions in budget cuts, arrive in town on the same day as PETA, who will be protesting the annual harp seal slaughter. And look over there; it’s the Native Americans, who believe that the Winter Olympics are being held on stolen land.

And what the heck, throw in a bunch of the homeless folks who are being displaced because Vancouver wants to take their low-income rental units and charge more for them during the Olympics. When all of these high-pressure fronts converge in the week leading up to the games, there’s going to be trouble, or at least thunder showers. And that guy selling the knockoff Winter Olympics toque suddenly isn’t going to look so threatening.