New Olympic sport – intellectual property whack-a-mole

Paul Raven @ 18-08-2008

The Beijing Bay logoDid you know that the International Olympic Committee threatens non-sponsor advertisers just for mentioning the Olympics?

Lucky for us that Futurismic‘s too small to show up on their radar, then… but that’s not all. The IOC’s latest move in Beijing is to cover up the brand names of anything that isn’t an official Olympic sponsor – things like bathroom furnishings, or the headphones of press reporters… or entire non-sponsor hotels. And there we were questioning the ethics of the Olympics taking place in totalitarian China. Looks like a perfect match after all, no? [via TechDirt]

In more Olympics-related news, those wily Swedes behind legendary torrent-tracker site The Pirate Bay have fallen foul of the IOC as well, in this case for acting as a tracker for Olympic footage.

But far from capitulating, The Pirates have yet again used the Streisand effect to turn legal threats to their advantage and boost their public profile… which is why, should you head over there to download a video of some weightlifter popping his elbow joint out or something, you’ll notice the site has been temporarily named The Beijing Bay. Zing – gold medal for Team Sweden! [via Wired]


The straight dope – performance enhancement drugs and the Olympics

Paul Raven @ 14-08-2008

syringe and ampoulesThe Beijing Olympic games are seeing a record-breaking achievement of a different kind – a round-the-clock lab team performing a greater number of tests for performance enhancing drugs, and more different types of tests, than ever before. And even so, the International Olympic Committee expect up to forty athletes to test positive for illicit substances. [image by happysnappr]

So – as suggested in the New York Times but originally proposed by bioethicists and other scientistswhy don’t we just do away with the restrictions entirely?

“… what we have now is not a level playing field. The system punishes some innocent athletes and rewards others with the savvy and the connections not to get caught. The more that the authorities crack down on known forms of enhancement, the more incentive athletes have to experiment with new ones — and to get their advice from black-market dealers instead of doctors.

[snip]

If elite adult athletes were allowed to push the limits of human performance in return for glory, they might point the way for lesser mortals to coax more out of their bodies. If a 50-year-old sprinter could figure out how to run as fast as her 25-year-old self, that could be useful to aging weekend warriors — or any aging couch potato.”

As I’ve suggested many times before to anyone foolish enough to ask my opinion about sports, the thing to do is create a separate league for athletes who enhance themselves, run it in parallel, and sit back to watch the viewing ratings. The noble myth of the natural athlete would die off pretty quick in the hard glare of economics, I’m thinking.

But I suspect that – as with the case of Oscar “Bladerunner” Pistoriuseconomics is the one big force keeping things the way they are. After all, Nike and Adidas and their ilk like to be able to claim that their clothing or footwear is what separates first place from first loser, rather than chemical [x] or prosthesis [y]… and they’ve got a lot of money to throw around in the process.

But would they have enough to hold out against Big Pharma, if they were allowed to join the contest?


Are the Olympics a convenient smokescreen for the conflict in Georgia?

Paul Raven @ 12-08-2008

Georgian tank troopsWhen I first heard the news about Russia’s invasion of Georgia last Friday (not coincidentally via Twitter rather than the mainstream media), my immediate thought was “well, you timed that neatly, didn’t you?”

I then shrugged it off as paranoid cynicism on my part, but it appears I’m not alone in suspecting that Russia quite deliberately waited until the world was busy watching the Olympic Games before launching their strike on Georgia. [Via Sentient Developments]

And the more I think about it, the more likely it seems – after all, DDoS cyberwarfare is part of the military game-plan now, so why not use current events to enhance the fog of war a little bit?

Listening to this morning’s typically vapid radio news bulletins here in the UK (fifteen seconds on Georgia, two minutes on the Olympics, two minutes on soccer) it appears to be a pretty effective tactic, albeit one that exploits our natural tendency to ignore bad news unless we feel it affects us directly.

The only remotely pleasant side to this line of thought is the possibility that one day wars will be fought entirely through media channels, obviating the need for the death and displacement of thousands of innocent people. Yeah, so I’m a dreamer. Sue me. [image from Wikimedia Commons]