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Face Off: Should Olympic streakers be penalised?

Posted at 1:30 pm, October 26, 2011 in News

Mark Roberts, serial streakerThe Department of Culture, Media and Sport have proposed a crackdown on ‘ambush advertising’ ahead of the London 2012 Olympics, including imposing a £20,000 fine on streakers who paint adverts on their body. We ask: Should Olympic streakers be penalised in this way?

Mark Roberts, serial streaker (above).
‘What have they got to be scared about? The crowd love to see a figure being chased by police – it’s schoolboy humour; it’s entertainment. I’ve been doing it 18 years now and have streaked 504 times. Every time the crowd has cheered. But as for the argument that writing a logo across yourself is somehow stealing from those who have paid for advertising rights, I just don’t get it. I’ve always written daft things on my body as a performance. A few years ago I streaked at the
Super Bowl with ‘super-bowel’ written on my back. I faced a $1,000 fine, not £20,000, and possible imprisonment. I can almost understand an argument for a heavy fine, but that is just a ridiculous amount of money. Lord knows what would have happened if that was the case when I streaked with a website on my chest at the Beijing Olympics: that was just a bit of fun. I thought the US and China were supposed to be countries famous for litigation, not the UK. I suppose somewhere down the line people might have made a couple of dollars, but that’s not the point of streaking. If you want to do it purely for financial gain, you’re in it for the wrong reasons. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has said anyone caught streaking with a logo will be presumed guilty until proven innocent – a clear contradiction of the European Convention on Human Rights. Not only that, it puts people who simply enjoy the thrill of streaking at risk. If people enjoy what I do, how is that in any way illegal? I think this whole matter has been cooked up to stop something that people love.’

Tim Jones, Freshfields

Tim Jones, Freshfields, legal services provider for London 2012.
‘Views can differ on streaking at sports events. Is it harmless fun or tedious self-indulgence? Whatever you think, professional streaking is in a different category. Carrying a corporate logo on to the pitch – however attractively presented on the body (and there are some people who should never take on this job!) – gets in the way of the contest, wastes time and just annoys most real sports enthusiasts. Most people view the sport at the Olympics as something very special. The athletes certainly do – for many it will be the pinnacle of their career. A feature of the Olympics is that no advertising is permitted on the field of play, in the arena or on the competitors. Not even the official sponsors can infringe this rule. Do we really want someone with the phone number of his local takeaway tattooed on his chest disrupting sportsmen and sportswomen who have spent their lives preparing for this moment? Official sponsors get special rights to be associated with the Games. This is because they are essential to London’s hosting of the event. Many have been involved since the early days of London’s bid when there were far more sceptics than supporters. They have provided financial support that has saved the taxpayer money. They have provided world-class goods and services to make the Games a success. And they are working hard on the legacy benefits in terms of jobs and opportunities for the city. Yes, they do get some special protection under the new rules. But that is a small price to pay for the chance we have to showcase London as a place that gets things done. And not the kind of things that involve stripping off and running in front of the world’s cameras, either.’

What do you think? Comment below.

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