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Frederic J. Brown, AFP/Getty Images
A tricyclist, center, rides past Visa advertisements on the Olympic Green in Beijing in July. Major sponsors of the Summer Games are afforded promotional pavilions in the expansive Olympic Park and are given preferential opportunity to display advertising throughout the city, on buses and in subways.

BEIJING — Consider it a name game and a little hide-and-seek-and-peek play.

When it comes to promoting official sponsors and suppliers and trying to thwart ambush marketers, officials of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games have taken both efforts to a new level.

Those efforts range from video scoreboard promotions for sponsors and an array of tape, labels and stickers obscuring company names in the most bizarre places.

As for the latter, call it the Olympics Cover-Up of 2008 — maybe not quite as big of a deal as the announced ages of certain gold-medal-winning gymnasts from China, but a close silver-garnering second.

Gone are the days when International Olympic Committee officials did everything in their power to remove all aspects of potential advertising and commercialism — as well as professionalism of participating athletes — from the Summer and Winter Games.

Nowadays, shell out enough tens of millions of dollars to be an Olympic sponsor or supplier, and you'll get your name front and center at Games venues.

But be a manufacturer whose products were merely used in the construction and equipping of a venue, and your name won't be seen in Beijing.

Before the start of every basketball game at the Olympic Basketball Gymnasium in west Beijing, a lengthy, splashy promotional video is run highlighting all 12 of the Games' A-list TOP sponsors (TOP stands for The Olympic Partner Program) like Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Visa and newcomer Lenovo, a Chinese computer hardware corporation. It also features the 2008 Beijing Olympic Partners — the second-tier of major sponsors.

Major sponsors are afforded promotional pavilions in the expansive Olympic Park and are given preferential opportunity for display advertising throughout the city, on buses and in subways.

Those sponsors and the BOCOG exclusive suppliers and official suppliers have their names and trademarks emblazoned on placards, posters and huge displays at entrances to Olympic venues. They can be found even inside the Main Press Center's front doors and at the entry of the MPC's cafeteria.

But it's BOCOG's efforts against the "unofficial" lot that is attracting attention — completely opposite to what organizers are trying to do.

Beijing event staff are refusing ticket-holders entry if they bring in food and drink products bearing the name of any company other than an Olympic sponsor.

Or, if a row of spectators at a venue all happen to be wearing apparel with the same nonsponsor's logo, staff will ask the fans to cover up.

And throughout Olympic venues in Beijing, corporate names on products and equipment in the buildings are being obscured. Whether it be names on thermostats, elevators, circuit-breaker boxes, light-switch covers or door locks, names have been masked by duct tape, common office-type labels or Olympic stickers bearing the five interlocking rings or the Beijing Games mascots.

They've stopped trying to keep duct tape over the manufacturer's name on the MPC escalators, since its nameplate is on the metal walkways at the top and bottom of the escalators and the tape is constantly being worn away by foot traffic.

The quantity of the strategically placed tape does more to call attention than to cover up. It's raising curiosity among the inquiring minds of the international journalists, who are picking away the tape to see what's underneath.

And as soon as a tape or sticker is removed, another is soon in its place, covering up once again the "unofficial" name.

The absurdity of it all is evidenced by the myriad of tape pieces found throughout restrooms.

Toilets, urinals, toilet paper holders, soap and paper-towel dispensers and even the motion-detectors used for automatic flushes or faucets all sport small pieces of tape.

But the clincher is the tape stuck inside the bathroom sink, covering up another name.

Seems as though there's still plenty of opportunity for sponsorships from the plumbing and fixtures industries.


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