Thursday, June 07, 2007

Liddle on the Olympic Logo

In a terrific piece in today's Spectator, Rod Liddle argues we've got the Olympic logo we deserve and picks apart the meaningless, 'inclusive' branded nonsense that blights our political and social discourse:

If I’m honest, I don’t object hugely to the 2012 logo, or at least no more than I had expected to. It has been argued that the design tells you nothing about London, that it fails to capture the spirit of our capital city. But the same was true of Athens in 2004: if the Greeks had wished to capture the spirit of their capital city they’d have depicted an asthmatic kebab-shop owner choking to death on traffic fumes against a backdrop of the Acropolis, but they didn’t. And similarly Peking next year — never mind this androgynous bloke dancing in ecstasy, what’s wrong with the interior view of a prison cell, maybe with a subtle rice-paper overlay?

But delve a little deeper and you will find that our design, our little logo, gives you a pretty good flavour of Britain and its delusions and confusions. Not that harmless little image itself, but the fatuous rubbish which lies behind it. Read again, for example, that meaningless, self-aggrandising, unintentionally hilarious guff from Wolff-Olins which precedes this article. Who would think, reading that, that the company’s primary employment was in scribbling the kind of thing you knock off idly on a sodden beermat while trying to remember what work you have to do? Or, better still, check out their website, enter the Wolff-Olins house of cards, where there’s much, much more of this pretentious, chest-beating drivel. They offer companies ‘potential platforms for action’. And then — God only knows what this means — ‘We think brands need to be less controlling, more generous.’ How precisely will they do this? ‘We help you invent new ways that move the world forward.’ Oh, good, many thanks for that, gentlemen. And then a rare moment of truth, or the truth as they have it: ‘Brand isn’t marketing. It’s everything.’

Brand is everything; that old advertising shibboleth that you can’t sell a thing if the product is rubbish is here turned on its head. As far as Wolff-Olins is concerned, you don’t even need a product in the first place, just a brand — a fiction, an idea, a notion to flog in the marketplace.

We should have become used to this vapid, ugly, empty verbiage by now — it is the currency of corporate management-speak, of the local governments and the quangos and NGOs — and increasingly it pervades our national political discourse, too. Sentence after sentence which seem to promise so much (‘We help you invent new ways that move the world forward’!) but deliver absolutely nothing. A mode of communication which somehow manages to be simultaneously disingenuous and sincere.

In the case of the 2012 Olympic Games both Wolff-Olins and the Prime Minister are trying desperately to tell you that the whole event is really nothing to do with athletics; that’s why that bloody word ‘inclusive’ crops up so often. (If the Olympics is truly inclusive, then would it be OK if I ran in one of the 400 metres heats? I’ve always rather fancied my chances.) Tony Blair has already said that he believes the Games should inspire people to change their lives. The Wolff-Olins film (which you can see on their benighted website) does not show wonderful athletes running and jumping and throwing things, it depicts instead browbeaten members of our ethnic minority and disabled communities struggling, in a very real sense, to come to terms with their daily struggle for existence, uplifted a little (not too much, obviously) by the Olympic Ideal, whatever that might be.

The notion that the Games might be a chance for us all to see brilliant sportsmen in action and thrill to the achievement of dedicated and talented individuals is here utterly subverted; the Olympics isn’t about any of that. It’s about ordinary people — quite miserable ordinary people, come to that — doing ordinary things, like riding a bicycle for a few hours every day. In other words, Wolff-Olins has rebranded the Olympics to mean exactly the opposite of what it was intended to mean. Not bad for £400,000, I suppose, all things considered.
Read the full piece here.

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