Sadly, most of us may have missed out on attending the first and only Redneck Olympics to take place if the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) gets its way.  The inaugural Redneck Olympics, which took place in Hebron, Maine between August 5th and August 7th, 2011, contained a rather hilarious schedule of events that included wife-carrying races, bobbing for pigs feet, toilet seat horseshoes, pie-eating contests, mud flop contests, lawn mower races, and other “redneck” events.

But shortly after what can only be described as a redneck convention in Maine, Redneck Olympics organizer Harold Brooks received a phone call from the USOC threatening him with a lawsuit if he refused to drop the word “Olympics” from the event’s title. The USOC claims that the Committee has exclusive rights to the word “Olympics” under the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act of 1978.  While it may seem that the USOC is engaging in a rather trivial battle, the USOC asserts that policing its allegedly exclusive right is far from insignificant. “Since the Olympic Committee receives no government funding, protecting its brand integrity is especially important so the committee can successfully attract paying sponsors.” Yet the public is unlikely to be confused between the Redneck Olympics and the Olympics themselves. Given the rather questionable similarities between Redneck Olympic events like wife-carrying races, and Olympic events like weightlifting, one Washington Post blogger sarcastically remarked that ”[i]t’s easy to see how one might confuse an official Olympics event with a Redneck Olympics event.”

Despite the USOC’s threats, Brooks remains determined not to drop the word “Olympics.”  In fact, Brooks stubbornly told the USOC, “I’m not basing [the Redneck Olympics] on your Olympics, I’m basing it on the Olympics in Greece.”

Unfortunately for Brooks, the USOC has successfully induced other entities to stop using the word “Olympics.” For example, the “Gay Olympics” changed its name to the “Gay Games” in 1982, and a Minnesota band known as “The Olympic Hopefuls” changed its name to “The Hopefuls” in 2009.

The USOC has not stated whether it will sue Brooks if he doesn’t change the name. However, USOC spokesman Mark Jones said the USOC has “every interest in finding some sort of accommodation with the gentleman.” If the USOC successfully dissuades Brooks from calling his event the Redneck Olympics, Brooks might find it difficult to select a new name for the games, as the name, “Summer Redneck Games” (heralded as “more fun than indoor plumbing”), has already been in use for more than a decade. Given the USOC’s history of protecting its exclusive right to the word “Olympics,” Brooks will likely have to find a new name for the Redneck Olympics, and those of us who were unfortunate enough to have missed out on this year’s event may not have another opportunity to attend another Redneck Olympics.

Ilana Kattan

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