Exclusive rights issue at stake

Updated: August 20, 2004, 11:49 PM ET
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- President Bush's re-election campaign will continue to run a television ad that mentions the Olympics by name, despite objections from the U.S. Olympic Committee, a spokesman said Friday.

"We are on firm legal ground to mention the Olympics and make a factual point in a political advertisement," said Scott Stanzel.

USOC officials had protested that federal law gives them the exclusive rights to the name.

The ad shows a swimmer and the flags of Iraq and Afghanistan.

"In 1972, there were 40 democracies in the world. Today, 120," an announcer says. "Freedom is spreading throughout the world like a sunrise. And this Olympics there will be two more free nations. And two fewer terrorist regimes."

Bush campaign aides contend that the law in question gives the committee exclusive rights only to use the Olympics name to sell goods or services or to promote athletic competition. The campaign avoided using the symbol of five rings in the ad, the aides said.

Stanzel said the ad will continue to run for the last two weeks of August.

Meanwhile, Bush is watching the competition on television.

"The president has been following the Olympics and pulling for all of our American athletes," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Friday in Texas, where Bush is staying at his ranch.

"He is keeping a close eye on team USA and watching it when he can," the spokesman said.

As for the TV ad, Darryl Seibel, a spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee, said the organization had contacted the Bush campaign about the ad and was awaiting a reply.

Some of the players on the Iraqi Olympic soccer team have complained about the ads.

The brand and concept of the Olympics belong to the International Olympic Committee in general and to the USOC in the United States.

An act of Congress, last revised in 1999, grants the USOC exclusive rights to such terms as "Olympic," derivatives such as "Olympiad" and the five interlocking rings. It also specifically says the organization "shall be nonpolitical and may not promote the candidacy of an individual seeking public office."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press