Ravelry vs the US Olympic Committee: pointy sticks victory
Insulting over two million crafters wielding pointy sticks and hooks is probably not the best idea, but that's exactly what the US Olympic Committee did when they contacted Casey Forbes (founder of Ravelry, the fibre-flingers Facebook) and warned the site to change the name of their annual Ravelympics event.
The Ravelympics is a knitting and crochet event that popped up a few years back and has become a Ravelry standard.
The idea is that during the Olympics competition you set yourself a challenge to handmake something fabulous and try to get it done before the Olympics finishes. It brings together all kinds of crafters who represent their country, their craft and whatever is important to them (teams range from the likes of Team TARDIS to Team Danish Knitters to Team Stitch London) and is a rather lovely and very inclusive craft happening.
In a letter from the General Counsel of the United States Olympic Committee it was explained that the Committee had totally got the wrong end of the pointy stick. This was the part that outraged millions of pointy-stick wavers:
"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."
The entire letter has been posted on Ravelry and can be read here (you'll need a Ravelry account to read it but if you haven't got one you'll be happy you did. Ravelry rocks).
Social media went up in woolly flames as soon as the news hit Ravelry, Twitter and the blogosphere. From the amusing, @ponddrop's "Hey USOC, have you asked the Olympic athletes who knit how they sleep at night, denigrating themselves?
#ravelympics", to this inspiring Open Letter to the US Olympic Committee by Laurie Wheeler over at the Crochet Liberation Front.
Yesterday afternoon the USOC Public Affairs Officer, Patrick Sandusky, published this apology on the USOC website:
"Thanks to all of you who have posted, tweeted, emailed and called regarding the letter sent to the organizers of the Ravelympics.
Like you, we are extremely passionate about what we do. And, as you may know, the United States Olympic Committee is a non-profit entity, and our Olympic team receives no government funding. We are totally dependent on our sponsors, who pay for the right to associate with the Olympic Movement, as well as our generous donors to bring Team USA to the Games.
The letter sent to the organizers of the Ravelympics was a standard-form cease and desist letter that explained why we need to protect our trademarks in legal terms. Rest assured, as an organization that has many passionate knitters, we never intended to make this a personal attack on the knitting community or to suggest that knitters are not supportive of Team USA.
We apologize for any insult and appreciate your support. We embrace hand-crafted American goods as we currently have the Annin Flagmakers of New Jersey stitching a custom-made American flag to accompany our team to the Olympic Games in London. To show our support of the Ravelry community, we would welcome any handmade items that you would like to create to travel with, and motivate, our team at the 2012 Games."
They then published a second apology a little later on, and are possibly now just hiding under their desks waiting for the tap tap tapping on knitting needles and crochet hooks at their doors.
There is a valuable lesson to be learned here. Don't mess with people who have pointy sticks and know how to use them. We are passionate about what we do and there are more of us than you realise. Be nice to us and we'll shower you in stitching, treat us mean and we will unleash our cake-fuelled rage*.
To find out more about the event and how you can join check out Ravelry's Ravelympics 2012 group and join the crafty madness. I will be.
*Not all knitters eat cake. But it helps.