Friday, June 22, 2012

The "-ympics"

I'll raise my crochet hook in the air to be counted as one of those "angry" crafters who recently took to social media to vent frustration with the recent actions of United States Olympic Committee.  For those not aware, a brief recap:

On the website, there is a "Ravelympics" held every two years.  Participants are asked to push their crochet and knitting skills to new heights while watching the 16-day Olympics.  I have never participated in the Ravelympics, but I do watch the Olympics, and in fact, still have recordings going back some 20+ years THAT I STILL WATCH!

The USOC sent what they called a "standard" cease-and-desist letter to the owners of Ravelry -- the letter requests the stopping of the use of the Olympic symbol AND demanding the name of "Ravelympics" be changed.  I have no problem with the USOC protecting the Olympic logo, or the "Olympic" name.  If permission wasn't granted for using them, then it should be stopped.

The problems I have are two-fold:
A) "-ympics."  Do they own the right to these letters?  That's like saying the Ford motor company owns the right to "-ord." Or, if you want to compare non-profit with a non-profit, like saying Save The Children (remember the "Caps to the Capital" campaign?) owns the rights to "-ldren."   I've yet to read anything rational on this.  Of course, if this is allowed, I'm proclaiming ownership to "-ziano," you know, just in case I become world-famous for crochet hook twirling, or something along those lines.

B) the wording in their "standard" cease-and-desist letter that included this paragraph that I found to be "discriminating":
USOlympics Vs Ravelympics: Intellectual Property vs Slurs?
 "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."
          The USCO did apologize - twice - for the language they used.  The first apology was not easily digested by crafters because the it included a request for "... any handmade items that you would like to create to travel with, and motivate, our team at the 2012 Games."  [Link to both apologies.]  When my kids apologize for something, they would never think of following it up with "... and can I have 20 bucks for the movies?"  Naturally if  the USOC finds this type of apology works, I might start apologizing for things like "...sorry your lawn grew and you have to mow it. You can send me some yarn if you'd like."

The story of The USOC vs the Ravelympics was first picked up by the Gawker, and then others followed:

My participation on this topic was in tweeting out some yarnie facts on the Twitter social site:
  • There are 17.4 MILLION crocheters, and 13.0 MILLION knitters.  Actually, this is "households of" but that's ok.  That's still a lot of folks playing with yarn.  Even though Ravelry has 2 MILLION members, once this went viral, it was time to look at the bigger picture.
  • of the 17.4 MILLION crocheters, they open their wallets to reportedly spend 1.064 BILLION US dollars on their love of crochet goodies -- these facts were published by the CHA in 2010.
  • Three Crocheted Lions will be part of the 2012 Cultural Olypiad:
... and then some sport-sy facts:
  • Guinness World Records officially issued “The Fastest Crocheter Title” to Lisa Gentry on June 25, 2005
  • Guinness World Record Holder for Fastest Knitter was earned by Miriam Tegels in 2008
  • The Guinness world record for the Most People Knitting Simultaneously was set in 2011
  • The Guinness World Record for the Most People Crocheting Simultaneously was set in 2010 in USA!  (hey, I was there!)
  • Guinness World Record Holder for Longest Crochet Chain Whilst Running a Marathon went to Susie Hewer in 2010
... for those reporting on the USOlympic vs Ravelympics saga (because I'm tired of seeing articles stating "little old ladies"):
... and my biggest concerns:
My bottom line: If deemed legal, I think the name "Ravelympics" should remain; no one is profiting from it (one of the USOC's concerns), and it actually helps promote the Olympics in a postitve way.  And I think that the US Olympic Committee should revisit their "standard" letters to ensure future language used is not inappropriate.

Out of this entire saga, I did learn something new:  The Wenlock Olympian Society, now known as the International Olympic Committee, once included knitting, as well as reading and spelling.  I can't help but wonder if "-ympics" was part of the spelling .........


Anonymous said...

Just reading about this on net today and the language in that letter really is quite rude. I hope people can't own letters like 'ldren and 'lympics that would really be insane.

I wonder if they have problems with schools using it to teach kids about the olympics? my son participated in the 'olympics' as a field day in May.

I'm wondering who sat at the board meeting to discuss the horrendous association of yarn and 'lympics? What was the convo'?

Laura said...


If a partial word could be found to be infringing on copyright or trademark, then O'Hare International Airport near Chicago, IL could be in a whole HEAP of trouble.

Why? Because their three letter designation is ORD.

Okay, in all seriousness, what bothers me most is that the USOC is going after Ravelry for an event that (1) is totally voluntary among its closed group of members, (2) Rav members who do choose to participate are not charged any fee for their participation nor does or the 4 creators of the site make any money from the event, and (3)any Rav member who completes an item during the time period receives a VIRTUAL Badge of Honor - said badge does not include either the Ring logo or the word Ravelympics (the drawing of Bob the dog does contain a dog collar and tag that could look like a medal, but there is nothing on the tag that signifies it as a medal).

In fact, I would say that Rav's event is in no way like the official games in that the official games only award prizes for the top 3 finishers of an event, while Ravelry gives a badge to everyone who has completed the event during the time frame.

If the USOC wants to go after people who use their trademark for profit, then more power to them. However, in the case of Ravelry, they got it dead wrong.

Richard Rose said...

Are there any figures on how many of those knitters and crocheters are male? I've always objected to the old "knitting and crochet is for little old ladies" line as I'm not little, nor am I old and I'm most definitely not female. said...

Richard, you ask an excellent question! As I find out information I will post it here.

Thus far, Laurie Wheeler of the Crochet Liberation Front tweeted to my inquiry: "CLF [male] membership is at 11%"

~Dee said...

Interesting -- in this article by BloombergBusinessWeek, you can own the rights to particial lettering in a given name:, stating "Since 1978, the nonprofit organization has had exclusive rights to control the commercial use of the word “Olympics” (or anything that resembles the word) in the U.S."

OK then. I hereby proclaim the ownership to "ziano." Imjustsaying.