I woke up this morning to not just a flurry, but a raging storm of activity on my Twitter stream. The hashtag #Ravelympics was trending!
Was everybody just filled with the Olympic spirit and eager to cast on their Ravelympic projects? Unfortunately, no. Something far darker had happened.
The US Olympic Committee sent Casey a cease and desist letter regarding 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
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.
That's right - an event where thousands of people from all nations come together in the spirit of friendly competition, self-challenge, and cooperation to enjoy the Olympic Games... denigrates the true nature of the Olmypic Games.
This is apparently not the first time Ravelympics has had trouble with the Olmypic Committee - previously, they had been forced to take down a Ravelympics 'badge of glory' from the Ravelry minimart. It is understandable that the Olympic Committee would not want Ravelry selling items connected to the Olympics - but to ban any association entirely?
Don't get me wrong. I understand the Olympic Committee's need to defend their trademark. If they didn't, everyone with a market stall or shop would be trying to sell unofficial Olympics merchandise. I can see how they think the Olympics stands for something which they do not wish to be polluted (though, arguments could be made that with all the corporate sponsorship involved, it is already well beyond polluted). Defending the Olympic trademark is their right and responsibility.
But, I also know the power of remix and collaboration to expand upon something to make it even more powerful. I know how thriving communities have been built around fan-art and fanfiction, how a great remix or cover creates an even further appreciation of the original song, how knitters previously indifferent towards the Olympics (such as myself) can feel a sense of connection and participation in this international event.
It doesn't help that the letter that Casey received was extremely dismissive of knitting, which has opened up some already fresh wounds regarding the other Olympic fiber arts controversy with the Woolsack project.
In a nutshell, the Woolsack project was a part of the Cultural Olympiad - volunteers around the country have handmade cushions out of British wool as gifts to the Olympic athletes. There was meant to be a stand in the Olympic Village to distribute these gifts, but their stand was cancelled and it is now significantly more difficult for these 100% handmade, 100% British gifts to reach their intended recipients (though that hasn't stopped the project, happily).
For those unfamiliar, here's a quick rundown of the Ravelympics courtesy of Fak. The Ravelympics began with the Yarn Harlot's Knitting Olympics in 2006, where she cast on a sweater to knit over the course of the games and invited her readers to join in. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee continues to run the Knitting Olympics on her blog each Games, but the event has grown even bigger since the introduction of Ravelry. Presently, there are over 7,000 knitters in the Ravelympics group and dozens of teams that knitters can compete with.
The story is spreading out beyond the knitting community -- it has been covered on Gawker and trending on Twitter. Even if they are forced to change the Ravelympics' name, it will always be Ravelympics to me -- and even if the US Olympic Committee is going against the Olympic spirit of cooperation, teamwork, and friendly competition, we knitters will compete swifter, higher, and stronger than ever.