"Indeed, a minimum of life, an unchaining from all coarser desires, an independence in the middle of all kinds of outer nuisance; a bit of Cynicism, perhaps a bit of ‘tub’."
Friedrich Nietzshe




3 Aug 2012

Olympic Cynicism from 165 to 2012

Just some of the 'official sponsors' who have profited from global advertising at the Games

It is hardly surprising that any Olympic Games should be representative of the times in which they occur. The current games of London 2012  in spite of the global catastrophe brought about by the collapse of the god of free market economics  is a triumph of capitalism. As Chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG), former athlete, former Conservative Member of Parliament, and Life Peer, Lord (Seb) Coe, unashamedly moralises:


"A large part of our £2 billion operating budget can only come from sponsorship revenue. Sponsors must be offered an exclusive opportunity. Otherwise we will not be able to secure their investment in the Games. We therefore need to prevent other businesses exploiting any unauthorised association with the Games. To help us prevent activities that damage our ability to generate revenue for the Games, Parliament has passed special laws, which are explained in this booklet [LOCOG's Brand Protection]." See also previous post 'Brand Cynicism and Charity Cannibalism'


But before deriding Coe's strategy to seduce corporate giants like McDonalds with prime global advertising in exchange for cash for his games (at the same time, running street traders and little sandwich bar owners out of town for daring to try to survive the recession by "ambushing" his brand; that is, use "prohibited" words such as "olympic" or "olympian" to describe a snack or burger) how did the ancient Cynics consider the original games circa 2000 B.C.


The most popular tale concerning a named Cynic and the Games was reported by the Syrian satirist Lucian of Samosata (c. 120-190 CE) in his The Passing of Peregrinus. Lucian actually witnessed the dramatic suicide of Peregrinus Proteus at the Olympic Games of 165 CE when Peregrinus, having publicised the event in advance, threw himself onto his own funeral pyre in front of admiring Cynics and a bemused general public alike. An excerpt of Lucian’s tale of Peregrinus’ suicide is included below:

Peregrinus may have imitated the suicide
of proto-Cynic Heracles (above)  
"Soon the Olympic games were ended, the most splendid Olympics that I have seen, though it was then the fourth time that I had been a spectator. As it was not easy to secure a carriage, since many were leaving at the same time, I lingered on against my will, and Peregrinus kept making postponements, but at last had announced a night on which he would stage his cremation; so, as one of my friends had invited me to go along, I arose at midnight and took the road to Harpina, where the pyre was. This is quite twenty furlongs from Olympia as one goes past the hippodrome towards the east. As soon as we arrived, we found a pyre built in a pit about six feet deep. It was composed mostly of torchwood, and the interstices filled with brush, that it might take fire quickly. When the moon was rising—for she too had to witness this glorious deed—he came forward, dressed in his usual fashion, and with him the leaders of the Cynics, in particular, the gentleman from Patras, with a torch—no bad understudy. Proteus too was bearing a torch. Men, approaching from this side and that, kindled the fire into a very great flame, since it came from torchwood and brush. Peregrinus—and give me your close attention now!—laying aside the wallet, the cloak, and that notable Heracles-club, stood there in a shirt that was downright filthy. Then he requested incense to throw on the fire, when someone had proffered it, he threw it on, and gazing towards the south—even the south, too, had to do with the show—he said, “Spirits of my mother and my father, receive me with favour.” With that he leaped into the fire, he was not visible, however, but was encompassed by the flames, which had risen to a great height. [. . .] The Cynics stood about the pyre, not weeping, to be sure, but silently evincing a certain amount of grief as they gazed into the fire, until my gorge rose at them, and I said, "Let us go away, you simpletons. It is not an agreeable spectacle to look at an old man who has been roasted, getting our nostrils filled with a villainous reek. Or are you waiting for a painter to come and picture you as the companions of Socrates in prison are portrayed beside him?" They were indignant and reviled me, and several even took to their sticks. Then, when I threatened to gather up a few of them and throw them into the fire, so that they might follow their master, they checked themselves and kept the peace."


Like Diogenes, Peregrinus has become an iconic figure, controversial not just for his suicide but also for his exhibitionism and celebrity seeking behaviour, not to mention patricide (killing his father because he could not bear the old man's aging), adultery, and homopedophilia. Among his many travels Peregrinus became a Christian bishop in Palestine before being excommunicated and studied Cynicism in Egypt under the Cynic teacher Agathobulus. Here he is said to have practised the Cynic art of indifference by appearing in public with half his head shaved, his face covered in mud, and an erect penis. As to what Diogenes himself might have thought, not only about the Games but the Paralympics also, we are indebted to 1st century Cynic and Stoic writer-philosopher Dio Chrysostom. In his ninth (Isthmian) discourses, Dio presents a fictional diatribe of Diogenes ridiculing a garlanded and celebrating athlete who had just broken a record for the two hundred yards dash for men:


“And what does that amount to?” he [Diogenes] inquired; “for you certainly have not become a whit more intelligent for having outstripped you competitors . . . “No, by heavens,” said he, “but I am the fastest on foot of all the Greeks.” “But not faster than rabbits,” said Diogenes, “nor deer; and yet these animals, the swiftest of all, are also the most cowardly. They are afraid of men and dogs and eagles and lead a wretched life. “Do you not know,” he added, “that speed is the mark of cowardice?” . . . “Are you not ashamed,” he continued, “to take pride in an accomplishment in which you are naturally outclassed by the meanest of beasts? I do not believe that you can outstrip even a fox. . . . “But,” replied he, “I, a man, am the fleetest of men.” “What of it? Is it not probable that among ants too,” Diogenes rejoined, “one is swifter than another? Yet they do not admire it, do they? Or would it not seem absurd to you if one admired an ant for its speed? Then again, if all the runners had been lame, would it have been right for you to take on airs because, being lame yourself, you had outstripped lame men?”
As he spoke to the man in this vein, he made the business of foot-racing seem cheap in the eyes of many of the bystanders and caused the winner himself to go away sorrowing and much meeker. And this was no small service he had rendered to mankind whenever he discovered anyone who was foolishly puffed up and lost to all reason on account of some worthless thing; for he would humble the man a little and relieve him of some small part of his folly, even as one pricks or punctures inflated and swollen parts." 




Unfortunately, an ego the size of Lord Coe's is impossible to puncture particularly for one so drunk on power that he even claims ownership of everyday words from the English language. Nevertheless, I will play my small part in adding to the much deserved ridicule by doing no more than reproducing below excerpts from his absurd manifesto against brand ambushing legislation which has led to the criminalisation of some small traders who dared to share his Olympimania:


"To help us prevent activities that damage our ability to generate revenue for the Games, Parliament has passed special laws, which are explained in this booklet [LOCOG's brand protection guidelines]


[...]


Ambush marketing


[...]


Also known as parasitic or guerrilla marketing, ambush marketing describes a business’ attempts to attach itself to a major sports event without paying sponsorship fees. As a result, the business gains the benefits of being associated with the goodwill and public excitement around the event for free. This damages the investment of genuine sponsors, and risks the organiser’s ability to fund the event.


[...]


When London won the right to stage the Olympic Games and Paralympic
Games in 2012, it became a guardian of the one of the most recognised
symbols in the world – the Olympic rings.


[...]


Collectively, all of these logos, designs and other marks relating to London 2012 ... make up ‘the Protected Games’ Marks’


[...]


The Protected Games’ Marks
Protected trade marks and designs:


All of the following names, words, marks, logos and designs relating to London 2012 and/or the Olympic and Paralympic Movements (collectively known as the Protected Games’ Marks) are legally protected marks owned by or licensed to LOCOG.


The words: London 2012 – 2012 – LOCOG – Javelin Team GB – Get Set – Games Maker


[...]


Also protected are The words:


–– Olympic
–– Olympian
–– Olympiad
–– Paralympic
–– Paralympian
–– Paralympiad
their plurals, translations and anything similar to them.


[...]


It [LOCOG] also specifies certain ‘Listed Expressions’ and states that a court may take these into particular account when determining if an association has been created with London 2012. Although the Listed Expressions are a helpful guide they are not the only thing a court would look at so it shouldn't be assumed that if a Listed Expression is not used LOCOG's right will not be infringed. The Listed Expressions are:


–– any two of the words in list A below
OR
–– any word in list A with one or more of the words in list B below:


A) Games, Two Thousand and Twelve, 2012, Twenty-Twelve


B) London, medals, sponsors, summer, gold, silver, bronze. For example, the following phrases use the Listed Expressions and someone would be likely to fall foul of the law if they used them without LOCOG’s authorisation:
– ‘Backing the 2012 Games’ – ‘Supporting the London Games’


[...]


It is important to engage people in the Games at all levels to get them excited about London 2012. So do not be put off from ever mentioning the Games. However, when doing so, the protection of the London 2012 brand should be borne in mind."



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