As it prepares for the upcoming 2012 Olympic games, London is implementing harsh measures to protect the brand image of the games and their sponsors. This campaign of corporate censorship will feature an online presence, heavily monitor athletes as well as having “branding police” scour the area for unapproved logos.

These laws apply to athletes, spectators, local businesses and anyone else nearby. Sharing pictures of yourself inside the Olympic village or venues on social media has been banned. Athletes can’t mention unapproved brands in public or on social media. Local businesses will be prohibited from launching Olympics-related promotions The “branding police” themselves will sweep the area, with tasks such as scouring bathrooms for logos on toilets or towel dispensers then blacking them out. Even numbers are feeling the heat, as “2012”, “two-thousand and twelve” or “twenty-twelve”, which could land you in hot water if they’re used in the same sentence as “games”.

The point of this repression, possibly the most stringent ever seen at the Olympics, is to protect sponsors and those who’ve bought broadcast rights. There’s a paranoia of “ambush marketing” campaigns in which companies might use spectators’ tee-shirts or Facebook pages to promote their brands without permission. Since official Olympic sponsorship is so expensive (Adidas, for instance, paid 100 million pounds), the stakes here are enormous.

In theory, cities (grudgingly) agree to host the Olympics in order to share the benefits of being at the centre of the world’s largest sporting spectacle. London’s new rules seem determined to prevent anybody from getting an extra customer or Facebook “like” without paying for the privilege. To justify this, they’re threatening that any costs not covered by sponsors will have to be made up by taxpayers. Leaving London in debt for years or decades wouldn’t be unusual for the Olympics, which more often than not turn out to be financial disasters for host cities. This contribution (usually billions), apparently, doesn’t entitle anybody to any of the rights they might have enjoyed on an average day if the five-ring circus had never arrived.