Iran threatens to boycott the Olympics – “It’s their loss”

In its pink, yellow and turquoise Lego looking figures, few logos have stirred up a fuss similar to the one of the London 2012 Olympics.

While some claim that the logo, which was revealed in 2007, looks as if the designers were experimenting with magic mushrooms and swastikas, others see cartoon TV character Lisa Simpson “practising her French”.

But it’s not until now the controversy has been taken to whole other level. According to Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) a letter signed by Mohammad Ali Abadi and Bahram Afsharzade, Head and General Secretary of the Iranian Olympics Committee, was sent to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) condemning the logo, and its designers Wolff Olins, for being able to spell out the word Zion.

“As internet documents have proved, using the word Zion in the logo of 2012 Olympic Games is a disgracing action and against Olympic’s valuable mottos,” the letter reads. It continues to state that the 2012 logo might stand in the way of some nation’s participation, “especially Iran which abides by commitment to the values and principles.”

Zion is one of the two hills of Jerusalem, Israel, and also a metonym for the city itself. The relations between Iran and Israel have been strained for a long time, and especially with current Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad refusing to acknowledge Israel’s existence as a country, and proclaiming the holocaust to be a myth.

“However, in this case I think that the logo looking like Zion to some is a convenient excuse in order to protest against Britain and blame faults on them,” says Reza Khiabani of the Iran Association in London.

According to Khiabani, the authorities in Tehran believe that the BBC and the UK government have orchestrated the citizen demonstrations against the Iranian regime. “It’s because of the activities of the BBC Persia programme, they tried to reflect on every event happening in Iran and they broadcast it widely.

The poor relation between the two countries dates as far back as the 19th century, writes the Guardian – with a key occurrence being when MI6 and CIA collaborated against Iranian Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadegh in the 1950s. After beginning a restoration of the relationship in the 90s, 2009 saw an all time low as both British and Iranian diplomats were expelled from each other’s nations.

“They [the Iranian government] always have to find some countries, especially states like Britain and the United States at the moment, and blame everything on their activities against the Islamic regime when the fact is that the government haven’t been able to provide proper services for their people.

For logos to be criticised is not unusual, but for political reasons to be the cause is rare. Other examples most often include well-established brands renewing their logos to modernise or change their identity.

In the autumn of 2008, Cornwall Council introduced a new logo, replacing their old county bird – the chough – with a fiery one that received so much critique they changed back to the old one. Not only did the citizens compare the flames to legendary boxing promoter Don King’s hair, it also brought up a discussion whether the included slogan ‘One and All’ should be spelt ‘Onan hag Oll’ or ‘Onen hag Oll’ in Cornish.

And speaking of swastikas: beer company Carlsberg used the old Indian symbol for good fortune and sun as part of their logo when formed by J.C. Jacobsen in 1847. The company removed the symbol in the 1930s but it can still be found on four life size elephant statues greeting visitors at the brewer’s factory entrance in Copenhagen, Denmark.

But in no case has the consequences been as severe as a nation withdrawing from one of the world’s biggest happenings.

“For the Iranian people, and especially those living in London and those who are against the regime, it will be terrible if we don’t participate in the Olympics,” says Khiabani. “In the end Iran is a nation that would like to participate in a big international event. But I believe many are afraid to say so – it’s a political decision because of the relationship with Israel and Britain.”

However, the Iranian Embassy in London urges people to not make any drastic conclusions from the threats. “It’s not the formal position to not participate at the moment,” a press officer says. “We are waiting for further explanations from Tehran so at this moment we can’t confirm anything. But it’s about values, not Israel or Zion in particular.”

“I wouldn’t take this too seriously,” says Jewish Jean Helman, a Londoner of Israeli descent. “I’m sure the Iranian team will come to London next summer. It’s such a small matter I don’t see that it will hurt relations between Israel and Iran any further – it’s they’re loss if they don’t participate.”

Jon Benjamin, Chief Executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, says: “Coming four years after the launch of the logo, the Iranian Olympic Committee’s claim is as laughable as it is tardy. The Olympic Games 2012 is a cause for celebration and will no-doubt showcase the magnificent sporting talents from across the globe as well as the vibrant cosmopolitan face of London.”

So far, the only comments made by the IOC have been that the London 2012 logo doesn’t represent anything other than the figure 2012, reports the Guardian. The Committee also said they were surprised of the timing of the complaints against the four-year-old logo.

On the other hand, some members of the public agree with the criticism. “Honestly, if Iran’s paranoia kills this logo, it will be one good thing Iran will have inadvertently done for the people of the world. I think if they knew how much most hates it already, they’d be singing its praises instead,” commented signature ‘Trish’ on

But on the flipside, as ‘Tom’ comments on the same site, “‘As Internet documents have proved…’ Somone tell Mr Ahmadinejad not to believe everything written on Wikipedia.”


2 Responses to “Iran threatens to boycott the Olympics – “It’s their loss””
  1. Laura says:

    I’m pretty sure he said, “It’s their loss.”

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