'Don't say 2016' – how Olympics Rule 40 works
- Updated: July 28, 2016
Athletes must break ties with sponsors who are not official partners of the Olympics from today until three days after Rio 2016 – or face sanctions.
An Olympic Charter bye-law states only approved sponsors may reference “Olympic-related terms” from 27 July until midnight on 24 August.
That includes words such as “victory”, “performance”, “effort” and “2016”.
Nor are companies such as kit suppliers allowed to retweet athletes, or pass on messages of good luck for the Games.
Athletes found to be in breach of rules could face sanctions, including having their medals taken away – although a reprimand would be the more likely punishment.
National Olympic committees are responsible for enforcing regulations, and Team GB published a guide detailing the restrictions in December.
British former heptathlete Kelly Sotherton suggested the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was more interested in punishing athletes over sponsorship infringements than for doping.
“If your sponsor says good luck to you in Olympic time you face being booted out, but drugs cheats??! #rule40,” she posted on Twitter.
The regulations – known as Rule 40 – are not new, and were designed to counter so-called ‘ambush marketing’ from harming revenue that could be passed on to athletes and federations, while protecting the investment of official sponsors.
Since London 2012 the rule has been relaxed slightly, and now athletes can appear in their sponsors’ marketing during the Games if they are granted special dispensation.
So what can’t they say?
According to the IOC, “Olympic-related terms” include the following, depending upon context:
- Rio/Rio de Janeiro
While “Olympic listed terms or expressions” include:
- Olympic Games
- The Olympic motto “Citius – Altius – Fortius” (which is Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger) and any translation of it.