There's a report in today's Independent about the problems facing Kamel Khichane, the manager of Café Olympic on West Ham Lane in Stratford. Despite seeking prior advice from Newham council, he has fallen foul of the incredibly strict rules included within the "Olympic Symbol etc. (Protection) Act" passed in 1995, which restricts the use of the Olympic symbol and certain "protected words". The café may be forced to change its name, at an estimated cost of three grand.
Crucially, the Act allows the government to regulate "advertising of any kind" in the vicinity of London Olympic events, even leaflets, posters, announcements or notices of "a non-commercial nature". This includes "the distribution or provision of documents or articles" and "material which has or may have purposes or uses other than as an advertisement". The could apply to leaflets handed out by anyone campaigning for the Games to give greater consideration for the concerns of local people about the Olympic legacy. Equally, although they're harder to bump into than they once were, it could pose a few problems for far-left newspaper sellers in the Stratford area in 2012.
Ludicrously, it could also mean that if anyone decided to hand out photocopies of a newspaper article or an academic paper that is critical of the cost of the Olympics, or that discusses corruption within the IOC, then a police officer who thinks is 'reasonable' can enter their premises to "remove, destroy, conceal or erase any infringing article" - whilst holding the power to "use, or authorise the use of, reasonable force for the purpose of taking action".
Let the dawn raids begin!
I see that the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee published a report at the end of January on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's 'public diplomacy' priorities for the Olympics. It says:
Parliamentarians are concerned that repression bearing any similarities to the Games in Beijing in 2008 might damage "British culture and values at home and abroad" - as indeed it might!
54. We welcome the unequivocal assurance by the Government that the long-standing rights of free expression and freedom to protest peacefully in the UK will not be suspended because of the Olympic Games. We recommend that the Government, both in the run-up to the Games and during the Games themselves, should firmly resist any pressure that may be applied by certain foreign governments to curtail the rights of freedom of expression and freedom to protest peacefully in the UK.