Thursday, 24 June 2010
Police will be used to arrest people involved in so-called ambush marketing stunts during the London Olympics.
Anyone attempting to advertise at events at the 2012 Games without signing lucrative marketing deals with the organisers could face criminal prosecution.
The agreement to protect commercial sponsors of the Games was made by the former Labour Government.
The revelation is likely to alarm civil liberties groups because it is thought to be the first time the police have been used to protect the commercial interests of multinational companies from rivals.
A little-known clause in the Olympic Act makes it a criminal offence to engage in unauthorised marketing at the Games or even in the host city.
It will carry a £20,000 fine for people or firms involved in the illegal marketing activities and could see them jailed if they fail to pay the fine.
Legal critics say the Act is too widely drawn because the offence applies to advertising ‘of any kind’. It will be an offence to ‘distribute documents or articles, the display or projection of words, images, lights or sounds’ and applies to ‘material which has or may have purposes or uses other than as an advertisement’.
The Act also suggests the final say on what is or is not an offence will be dictated by the Olympic organisers themselves.
Last night the Department for Culture, which is overseeing the Olympics, said police would be called in only as a last resort and added that cases were likely to be dealt with ‘informally’.