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olympic stadium london
An aerial view of the London 2012 Olympic stadium.

Year 2002 brought remarkable successes to the English football club Arsenal, as it clinched the FA Cup and secured the 2nd position in Premier League. Many pundits say the showy symbol O2 on the players chests was one of the reasons behind their impressive performance.

Founded only a year ago back then, O2 established its reputation as a good financial partner of the national sport. Being the lead sponsor of the England Rugby team and the shirt sponsor of Arsenal FC, it did not come as a surprise that O2 also became one of the leading sponsors of London 2012 Olympics.

Questions began to rise only after a report published in Daily Telegraph mentioned the sponsorship agreement between London Olympics and O2 that would cause considerable discomfort for any non-O2 mobile company users attending the Olympics. According to the Telegraph, 40,000 executives and guests in its corporate entertainment areas will only be able to use mobiles with an O2 contract forcing them to adopt a new mobile number, or face a communications blackout,” other mobile companies will operate only in the shared public areas.

The only response to this article found on the Internet at the moment explains ways on how to “cheat the blockage of telephone signals diverting your number, buy dual SIM handsets etc. However, the main question that readers have put forward is how legal is it to use the signal blocking technology on an arena where thousands of fans have paid money to enjoy the worlds most important sporting event.

As no concrete sources are mentioned in the Telegraph and there have been no other confirmation of this news, the veracity of the report is doubtful but the precedent itself is worth exploring. If we assume that the news is valid then we are dealing with a very equivocal marketing move from the side of O2.

The ambiguity does not only come from the fact that the above mentioned part of the contract can easily be neglected by ordinary mobile users; not less interesting is the economic consequences of such an aggressive company policy. By forcing its potential future clients to use O2-only services and thus depriving them of the freedom of choice, O2 risks to provoke negative attitudes towards the company.

Whether or not if this news about O2 is true, it gives a micro picture of what is going on today in the world of sports. While sport is becoming more and more business oriented, and in many cases resembling showbiz, the distance between the sport arenas and ordinary spectators is departing, thus placing the often incomprehensible interests of sponsors above all.

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