Greece hunt for fake Olympic souvenirs

  • Other Sport
  • Wednesday, 04 Jun 2003

ATHENS: Athens Olympics organisers (ATHOC) and Greek police are cracking down on the growing industry of counterfeit Olympic souvenirs. 

Since Sunday, a special squad of six ATHOC staff posing as buyers, patrol streets in Athens hunting for unauthorised 2004 products. 

“We want the counterfeiters to panic and our commercial partners and shoppers to feel secure,” ATHOC general marketing director George Bolos said. 

Fake Olympics memorabilia pose a threat to the Games’ finances. 

ATHOC has signed 19 licence agreements with Greek companies to produce so-called “Olympic products”, mostly T-shirts, pins and shorts, bearing famous Olympic insignia such as the Games’ five rings. 

Under the terms of the deals, organisers’ revenue slice is set at 10% of products’ total sales, estimated to reach 770 million euros (US$900 million).  

The lion’s share – 147.3 million euros – is forecast to come from sports clothes such as shorts, T-shirts and trainers. Next come pins (123.6 million euros), caps and hats (101.5 million euros) and jewellery (52.8 million euros). 

Despite the fact that each product bears special anti-counterfeit features, such as hologram-like labels, the number of copycat souvenirs is set to rise, Bolos said. 

Counterfeit products, from CDs to cigarettes, are thriving in Greece. But organisers are determined to hit hard against everyone aiming to turn a quick and easy buck on ATHOC’s expense. 

“We’ll show no mercy, no pity,” Bolos said, adding: “Those who play with fire will have some unpleasant surprises.” 

These are not empty words. 

In what has been the biggest strike against counterfeiting since Olympic products were launched, Greece’s Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE), working closely with ATHOC, swooped down on imitators in mid-May. 

Some 13,500 fakes were seized in an Athens warehouse ran by a Chinese citizen who now faces charges. 

Objects confiscated were mainly T-shirts, trainers and shorts; copycat dolls of mascots Fivos and Athina; and fake olive branches – the equivalent of medals in ancient Greece. – AFP  

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