BEIJING—The Olympics protects its sponsors. In Beijing, you’ll see plenty of Coke and Visa logos, but no Pepsi or American Express anywhere. The IOC goes so far as to put swatches of dark tape over the logos of non-sponsor cars used as Olympic taxis and non-sponsor toilets used as, well, Olympic toilets. You simply do not get between the Olympics and the sweet, steady flow of sponsor cash.
Snowboarder Julia Marino, a silver medalist in slopestyle, learned that lesson the hard way prior to Monday’s big air competition. Marino uses a board with a large Prada logo on it, and that didn’t sit well with the IOC, which required her to cover the logo or risk disqualification.
Marino took to her Instagram page, noting in a Story, “For everyone asking, the night before the big air, the IOC told me they no longer approved my board even tho [sic] they approved it for slope. They told me I would be disqualified if I didn’t cover the logo and obliged me to literally draw on the base of my board with a sharpie.”
The IOC, Marino said, contended that the Prada sponsorship violated IOC’s Rule 40, which governs the sponsorships an athlete can endorse while at the Games. Marino already covered the Prada logo on her helmet while winning silver, and now the IOC was requiring her to color over the logo on the board.
At an Olympic level, even the tiniest alterations matter, and Marino said the markered board felt unfamiliar under her feet.
“For those who don’t know,” Marino wrote, “the base of the board is important for your speed and not meant to have anything on it but wax, having marker and other things on the bottom basically defeats the purpose.”
Marino said the board “felt off” and after feeling “unsteady” in practice, she bailed out of the event to avoid further injury.
“I dropped into the jump to see how the tailbone felt after taking a slam the other day in practice, and after my base [was] altered, I had no speed for the jump and wasn’t able to clear it several times,” she wrote. “Was just feeling pretty physically and mentally drained from this distraction and the slam I took. I was super-hyped with how I did in slope, my main event, and decided not to risk further injury even tho [sic] that didn’t appear to be the top priority of the IOC.”
USOPC vice president Dean Nakamura appealed the decision to the IOC, contending that covering the logo would alter the board’s core characteristics.
“[C]overing the logo is not a feasible option,” Nakamura wrote. “The logo is molded to the board and altering it would cause drag and interrupt the surface intended to glide … [W]e ask the IOC to reconsider its position and allow Julia Marino to use the board used during the Snowboard Slopestyle competition.” The appeal was denied.
Marino at least went home with one medal … and a good, if painful, story for why she didn’t get a shot at a second.