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If Knitting Was Exercise, You Could Bounce a Quarter Off My Ass June 21, 2012

Posted by J. in Genius.

So, the United States Olympic Committee ™ has sent a cease and desist letter to Ravelry for trademark infringement. In a nutshell, Ravelry is a wildly popular fiber art site on the Internet, and this is the third year they have hosted the Ravelympics with knitting themed events. One is supposed to compete in the knitting event while watching the Olympics. You can read an article about it here, along with the full text of the letter. It sums it all up.

U.S. Knitters Outraged After U.S. Olympic Committee Squashed Knitting Olympics–and Disses Knitters

First, I say kudos to them for protecting their trademark. When you own a trademark, you have the right to decide who gets to use it. They have every right in the world to say “Um, that’s our name and we don’t want you to use it.” Period. I support that 100%. And I think that since the Olympic ™ symbols and names associated with the games and organization are copyrighted, that the patterns on Ravelry using them should change them without hesitation, or take them down completely.

What chaps my nips is the reason they gave.

Changing the name of the event, the “Ravelympics.”; The athletes of Team USA have usually spent the better part of their entire lives training for the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games and represent their country in a sport that means everything to them. For many, the Olympics represent the pinnacle of their sporting career. Over more than a century, the Olympic Games have brought athletes around the world together to compete in an event that has come to mean much more than just a competition between the world’s best athletes. The Olympic Games represent ideals that go beyond sport to encompass culture and education, tolerance and respect, world peace and harmony.

The USOC is responsible for preserving the Olympic Movement and its ideals within the United States. Part of that responsibility is to ensure that Olympic trademarks, imagery and terminology are protected and given the appropriate respect. We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games. In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.

It looks as if this is the third time that the Ravelympics have been organized, each coinciding with an Olympic year (2008, 2010, and 2012). The name Ravelympics is clearly derived from the terms “Ravelry” (the name of your website) and OLYMPICS, making RAVELYMPICS a simulation of the mark OLYMPIC tending to falsely suggest a connection to the Olympic Movement. Thus, the use of RAVELYMPICS is prohibited by the Act. Knowing this, we are sure that you can appreciate the need for you to re-name the event, to something like the Ravelry Games.

Certainly Olympic ™ athletes have trained very hard to be able to compete in the Games. But you know what? I didn’t wake up one morning knowing how to make these:Image

I spent a lot of hours hunched over with four pointy sticks in my hands and trained myself to manipulate them, the same way an Olympic ™ badminton player spends long hours practicing with his shuttlecock. I mean, not to take away the accomplishments of the Olympic ™ table tennis team, but I would argue that it takes as much concentration and as many hours of effort, not to mention the manual dexterity required to knit something like this:


This shawl is called Torreyana and it was designed by Kathleen Freeman for Knitty.com. Clicking the link will take you to the pattern if you would like to make one for yourself, but be warned: it was designed for hand-spun laceweight yarn and is beaded as well. It’s what we in the knitting world would call an Olympic ™ level project.

as it does to hit a plastic ball with a rubber colored paddle. I could be wrong about that. It’s been a long time since I’ve played ping pong.

The Ravelympics, I argue, is a celebration of knitters coming together from all over the world in a shared spirit of culture and education, tolerance and respect, world peace and harmony. No, knitters are not athletes. And not everyone who competes is at the top of the knitting heap. But anyone who’s ever made an afghan knows that it’s an endurance trial–just like a marathon. Not as sweaty…unless you’re working on it in the summer.

The knitting events are lighthearted and fun, but take skill, determination, patience, and endurance to complete, and every knitter who competes comes away from it “faster, higher, and stronger,” able to work stitches faster while remaining accurate and even, at a higher level of skill than before, and stronger in confidence and ability.

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” –The Olympic ™ Creed
I argue that the Ravelympics is entirely consistent with Olympic ™ ideals.To that end, I disagree that knitting events in any way denigrate the effort and accomplishments of our Olympic ™ athletes, and find that the condescending attitude of the USOC in assuming that our craft takes less skill, training, and hours of practice than their sport equally denigrating.

Further, one could argue, I suppose, that the Ravelympics is actually better than the real games because anyone can compete at any skill level. It’s not closed to all but those knitters who have reached advanced levels, because knitting is something where I argue that it is impossible to “peak”. It is more inclusive of age, tolerant of handicaps, and it is one of those things where those who are highly skilled don’t try to out-perform those who are not, but reach a hand down and pull up those who are struggling. We win when we cross the finish line together.

I think Ravelry should go a step further and totally rework their Games. Write a new creed. Set new ideals. Knitting is not “sport”. It is better than sport. There are no doping scandals, no selling out to corporate sponsors, no blurred lines between amateur and professional standings, no international grief, no arguing over rules. Knitting does not inspire nations to boycotts or acts of terrorism. You don’t hear about rampant bribery, corruption, and criticisms of commercialism run amok.

Ravelry should also trademark the name they choose and I hope that the ideals the Summer Knitting Games inspires will prove to be a lasting testimony to what can be achieved with sticks and string.

Make no mistake, here. I staunchly defend the right of the USOC in this matter, and I believe with all my being that it absolutely should protect and defend its trademark to the full extent of the law. It is important that they do. Their defense of what belongs rightfully to them matters to all of us who create things and hope to profit from them. They have a legal right and an ethical responsibility to decide which associations denigrate their brand reputation, and they should. They MUST.

In this case, however, I find myself feeling like I’d prefer not to take part in something associated with the Olympics at all. I’d prefer not to denigrate my art and cheapen my skills by association.



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