By Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro reporter, 7/1996

Historians note: I include this here to be complete; this was one of my very first columns for the paper and this is REALLY not very good. Olympic sponsorship is very necessary to make the games possible. It does get annoying course, but it’s all part of the process. That said, all these years later, I just have to file this one away as, “Well, I guess it qualifies as an “op-ed!” This one really isn’t very good!

On the other hand, I did work in the words “Speedo” and “spandex” which definitely helps with Google searches, ha ha!

As I sit here typing this article, using Microsoft (proud sponsor of the Olympic Games) word processing software and drink my Coca-Cola (1928 – 1996, 68 years of Olympic support), I realize how ridiculous this whole Olympic sponsorship thing has become.

It seems like every company across the planet is supporting, sponsoring, endorsing, aiding and abetting the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, and they want to make sure we know about it. You cannot watch TV these days without being assaulted by hundreds of “proud sponsor of the 1996 Olympic Games.”

Some of the sponsors make me wonder. “Hostess blue marshmallow peanut butter filled devil’s food cream cakes, the official snack of the 1996 Olympic Games!” or, “Burger Kings breakfast mega Taco chili burger, official breakfast of the Olympic athletes!”

I we really supposed to believe that these muscular men and women in Speedos and spandex really eat that stuff? For most athletes, gum has been categorized as a dessert and yogurt is a major food group – you can be sure they are not packing away cupcakes and nachos  during training breaks. Even beer companies have sponsored some of the events. Coming next: Camel unfiltered: official carcinogen of the Olympic Games!

By the way, watch the movie “Independence Day” closely. As the spaceship obliterates New York you can make out a bumper sticker on the death ray that reads, “Official malevolent extraterrestrial of the 1996 Atlanta games.”

Olympic sponsorship is much like the hype advertisers bombard us with before Christmas. By starting around August 2  and flooding  the airwaves with Christmas commercials and sales the holiday itself gets lost in the shuffle, almost to the point that we look forward to the event being over, so we can be free of the commercial barrage. So it is with the Olympic Games.

Acknowledging the product placement is an everyday occurrence, YOUR AD HERE, corporate sponsorship is a necessary evil in our over-commercialize  Olympics, I fear that by the 2000 games in Sydney, the winner of the Olympic gold will begin a speech by saying that she would like to thank everyone who helped her — and as her coach and  parents straightened proudly in their chairs, the athlete would began, “I thank Pepsi, NASCAR, NBC, Doritos, Hershey…”

Race car driver’s uniforms are already plastered with corporate logos. Can ice skater costumes and other Olympic uniforms be far behind?  Will swimmers have to get corporate logo tattoos because of the lack of advertising space on their small swimsuits?

It seems like so many companies have jumped on the Olympic bandwagon and that no one really cares about the athletes anymore. But those athletes are the ones who have gotten up to three in the morning every day for the last 20 years and trained every waking moment for this event, toning their bodies to the peak of physical perfection for the pure joy of the sport and to make their country proud.

Let’s tone down the hype. Perhaps at the beginning of each Olympic coverage, they could run the corporate sponsors across the screen, the way they do for snow day cancellations. Something! Anything! At this point, anything would be preferable to this corporate attack. What I would like to see on TV instead would be a corporation that announces it is a proud sponsor of an aggressive search for an AIDS vaccine or  benefactor of a program to eliminate homelessness or pleased to sponsor a plan to our school system. Those would be ads worth watching. In the meantime, remember that there really is a special event associated with all this hype – and a group of amazing individuals from around the world is about to demonstrate the remarkable human skill determination agility.

The competitions are exciting these great athletes should be encouraged and sharing – they’ve worked all their lives for this moment.

Our Olympic support should be pretty athletes, not the companies sponsoring the games.

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