London 2012: Kate Middleton’s Family Slammed for Cashing In on the Olympics

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Carole, James, Michael and Pippa Middleton leave the Goring Hotel in London on April 30, 2011

Lawyers representing the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) have asked the family of the Duchess of Cambridge to amend the web site to their online party business so that it complies with advertising laws related to the Olympics.

Carole and Michael Middleton came under suspicion this week after journalists noticed that their family-run Party Pieces web site had started selling Olympic-themed tchotkes as part of a range called “Celebrate the Games.” The collection of more than 100 items includes a 16-ft. multi-country flag bunting ($3), a ring-toss game ($4) in Olympic colors, and a “stadium scene setter,” which is a wall-hanging that depicts a packed stadium.

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You’d expect the government to applaud a family-business going for gold, especially in a chilly economic climate. But the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 makes it a crime for a business to profit from the Olympic Games unless it is an official sponsor of the event. LOCOG, which drafted a list of banned words and phrases, can prosecute any business that uses two or more of the prohibited words listed in its “Group A” of terms: Games, Two Thousand and Twelve, 2012 and Twenty-Twelve. It can also take action against those who uses a word from Group A and connect it with a word from Group B, which includes the terms London, Medals, Sponsors, Summer, Gold, Silver, and Bronze. Businesses deemed guilty could face a £20,000 ($30,000) fine.

But this afternoon the Middletons learned that they have escaped that fate.

“There are no infringements and the products are fine,” a LOCOG official said on Thursday afternoon after its trading team investigated and absolved the web site of wrongdoing. “We will ask them to make minor changes to some copy.’’ Officials did not elaborate on those changes, but the Daily Telegraph reports that they will likely adjust an image of an Olympic torch and a woman throwing a javelin under the tagline “Let the Games Begin.”

Kate’s sister Pippa, who edits the site’s blog “The Party Times,” did not receive the reprimand that tabloids had anticipated. She recently penned an article that encourages readers to buy several Olympic-themed products. The article, entitled “Celebrate the Games and Support Team GB,” includes links to several party trinkets.  “As for games-themed party favours,” she writes, “Union Jack ponchos and novelty glasses make a special change from the normal party bag treats to take home.”

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The Middleton family has faced accusations of profiteering in the past. Ahead of the royal wedding they came under fire for running a blog post that said “every little girl dreams of being a princess – and there’s nothing a princess likes more than throwing a party.”

And in March 2010, the Guardian reported that Kate successfully sued a photo agency for invasion of privacy after they snapped pictures of her playing tennis on holiday. Reports estimated that she received an apology and more than $15,000 in damages. That would seem fair enough. But a few weeks later she cast her need for privacy aside, and was happy to have her picture posted on the Party Pieces web site along with an interview on how to throw a perfect party. Journalists took note, and that interview was quickly removed from the site.

A spokeswoman for LOCOG previously suggested  that the majority of disputes are resolved quietly. LOCOG engages in friendly dialogue with businesses who “are usually doing it to be part of the fun.”
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