Knitting Blog

Ravelympics, The USOC and the “True Nature” of the Olympic Spirit

By this time, most people have probably read about the United States Olympic Committee’s (USOC) cease & desist letter to Ravelry regarding the "Ravelympics". The USOC’s legal power play was based on grounds that the Ravelympics somehow denigrated the "true nature" of the Olympic games. We at Craftsy think the USOC's move lands somewhere between absurd and idiotic, with a healthy dash of hypocrisy thrown in for good measure.

In theory, the "true nature" of the Olympics and the Ravelympics are based on very similar foundation: a celebration of dedication, performance, competition, creativity, collaboration, and a global community finding singularity of purpose and common ground beyond the notions of geography, nationality, or religion. In reality, it is actually the Ravelympics that fulfill these principles.  The fiber artists that constitute the participants in the Ravelympics, much like Craftsy’s vibrant yarn arts community, typify the principles of dedication, skill, and generosity the Olympics ostensibly stand for.

While I enjoy watching the Olympics every 2 years (Summer and Winter), there is little debate that its governing body, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), is a notoriously corrupt political and money-grabbing behemoth. Bribery scandals (Salt Lake City), rigged judges and embezzling (Seoul), Ticket scalping and a scheme to sell the Olympic torches (London) are just a few of the most recent hits.  Not to mention the fact that the IOC was led for over 20 years by an admitted fascist and scoundrel, Juan Antonio Samaranch.

In addition to corruption at the highest levels, the Olympics have fallen prey to crass commercialism. Nothing says "true nature" of the Olympics like sponsorships from such great global citizens as British Petroleum and Dow Chemical.  I'll take a group of knitters over these guys any day of the week. Despite sponsorship from such fine community actors, every country to ever host the Olympics has taken a financial beating. I think it is fair to say the Greeks could use the $15B they squandered on the 2004 Olympics right now.

In summary, if the USOC has a half a brain, they will not issue a half-baked apology to Ravelry and its community, but rather celebrate the Ravelympics as what the ideals of the Olympics are supposed to stand for: people coming together around healthy competition, art, skill, community, and humanity.


John Levisay
CEO Craftsy


Keren Ashby

I totally agree! You would think that the IOC has more important tasks ahead than to pick on a group of knitters and fiber artists! I think Ravelry using the name ravelympics is not an attempt to take anything away from the Olympic Games, which have really changed in my lifetime. And what about Special Olympics!? Are they the next target of the IOC?
I will miss watching the Summer Games,

Jen Mullins

Special Olympics were “granted” the right to use the word “OLYMPIC” in 1979 I think…by the USOC. Must be nice to control a word that’s been around since 776 BC!!!


Great letter!!! The Olympic committee are absurd and idiotic!! You are so right!! I swear that I have heard many other companies use a version of the word Olympics in their advirtising!!!

Kate McCullough

The Olympic committee has lost site of the original purpose of the Olympics which was to give amateur athletes the chance to compete on a world class level. I may be dating myself but I remember when an athlete would be stripped of his Olympic medals if it was discovered that he competed anywhere professionally. Now it is just one professional team against another and the heart and soul has gone out of the Olympics. Poor sportsmanship is the order of the day, not the oddity.
For the Ravelympics, crafters are quick to help out the amateurs and everyone is encouraged to participate regardless of their skill level. Crafters know a lot about perseverance, trial and error, and the community spirit. Crafters are quick to put their skills to use for a cause they believe in. Crafters actually embody the original spirit of the Olympics better than the Olympic games do now.
For me and my knitting, we will not be sitting in front of a single Olympic game on the television set. I’d rather watch reruns.


Thank you for not biting your tongue! I appreciate your response.


I agree wholeheartedly that this order is totally ridiculous.
It never ceases to amaze me how these ‘corportations’ think that they can brand, and therefore own, something which, by its very nature, belongs to the public. They’ve twisted something festive and uniting in to a corrupt marketing gong-show.
The focus has moved so far away from the spirit of “dedication, performance, competition, creativity, collaboration, and a global community finding singularity of purpose and common ground beyond the notions of geography, nationality, or religion”; a push for profits is all I see.
This cease and desist order clearly shows their pomposity, that they genuinely believe that they can own the very spirit of the olympics because they’ve branded it.
Ultimately, they need to get off their mountains of cash and come down to the real world where the rest of us live in the enjoyment of our communities, good-natured competition, and comemoration of hard-work and skill.


Wow – could not have said it better myself!!




I TOTALLY agree with this. Inwill participate in Ravalympicas no matter what the IOC thinks.

Judy Desetti

Don’t be silly. This was done in good nature. Surely the IOC has better things to do than get involved with micromanaging a community of knitters and fiber artists. Thanks for keeping us aware.


“Don’t be silly. This was done in good nature. ”

Seriously? Did you click on the link to the Gawker article and actually READ it? The letter from the USOC to Ravelry states:

“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.”

Webster’s Dictionary defines the word denigrate as follows:
verb \ˈde-ni-ˌgrāt\
den•i•grat•ed den•i•grat•ing
Definition of DENIGRATE
transitive verb
1: to attack the reputation of : defame
2: to deny the importance or validity of : belittle

So by participating in this online event as a knitter and crocheter I am apparently “attacking the reputation of and denying the importance of the USOC and US Olympic Athletes.” This blatant insult to the hard work of every fiber artist around the world and to the Ravelypmpic participants is what has everyone so upset. The USOC and their law clerk didn’t even bother to find out what Ravelympics were all about before they wrote and sent their letter.

Yet you say that this was “done in good nature,” therefore, I will disagree (2,204,636).

Thank you Craftsy for standing up and supporting the fiber arts community with this statement!


Amen, Amen, and Amen! Thank you for standing up for the multitudes of knitters who not only strive to generate income from their craft but also are some of the most generous in the giving of their time and talent to charity.


Well said! You would think the USOC would be more concerned with their competitors than with folks wielding pointy sticks. This has only proven to bring the knitting/crafting community closer…and make them more vocal!


outstanding response


I totally agree, here. Infact I think we are definately on the more positive side of karma.while I support US athletes for working so hard to excel at something, it is more for their personal gain, unlike our special olympics athletes who support eachother happily no matter who you are or where you are from, with no monetary gain, commercials or merchandise, etc. Now special olympics no longer takes knitted/crochet scarves for the athletes for winter games. They stated they had too many, but this came what two days after this ravelry event, when last month they were still trying to decide colors for 2013. Im sooo upset! I will still let my son and special olympian participate, and make items for him amd team mates butalso be grateful he doesnt understand how snobby and rediculous the ones who cant be named have become.

Joyce Weaver

You go John! I wasn’t aware of any of this until your blog entry here. Thanks for bringing this to light!


Please, do not simplify this issue to the point where you report on only the part that had everyone up in arms.

The issue started with the trademark violation. Unfortunately, in the US USOC has a massive advantage, since congress granted them trademark rights to anything even approaching the word Olympic. Thus the C&D letter.

The letter upset people because it had a paragraph in it that was insulting. Normal C&D letters from different companies do not do this, but unfortunately USOC seems to have that as part of their template. I am certain they are rethinking this after the furor it caused.

However, they have now apologised twice, their PR guy Patrick Sandusky kept apologising to almost every tweet about this he got on his personal account and some of those were also not exactly polite. But he kept his cool and in my book, the apology is accepted.

The PR desaster for USOC remains and together with all other IOC and London Olympic scandals makes a lot of us question whether we should support Games set up by this organisation which answers to no one – except for us, the public.

And that is where we need to get active. Keep them on their toes, not let them get away with things anymore – like we did here.


This whole thing is so insulting and ridiculous. Seriously, can anyone with a brain cell actually believe knitters & crocheters pose a threat to olympic spirit? I’d like to hear what some of the athletes think of this … they’d probably find it just as absurd and small-minded. Knitters & crocheters are some of the most generous and compassionate people I know, not to mention supporters of many charities, as well as the Special Olympics. I will participate in the Ravelympics … if I choose to … and will continue to support the olympic athletes for the accomplishments.. But it might be time to look at some of these olympic sponsors and decide if I want to buy their products anymore.

Wendy booth

Right on Craftsy! Well said.
Craftsy rocks…great customer support, great classes and now on the same page with this Olympic BS…way to go! Will have to read this blog more often…
Cheese making….do it!


So, what is the upshot of this fiasco? Does Ravelry have to stop the Ravelympics? If so, why is it still on the Ravelry site? Does the apology by the USOC give knitters the right to participate in the Ravelympics or not?
I believe “Ravelympics” changes the word “Olympics” at least 20%. That should let us slip stitch under the starting gun.


From a Raverly post on 6/22, the Ravelry powers-that-be were waiting to find out further information regarding the need to change the name. The event will still go on, they just aren’t sure yet what the name will be by the time it actually starts.

Andres P. Nevarez

Thank You for such a gift. If I ever had a doubt about the real monetary greed behind the Olympics, the USOC painted a very clear picture. The language used was insensitive and shows the lack of refinement of those at the top of this committee. The Athletes have my support, but I can tell you that I never had a bad attitude toward the Olympics until now. The apologies from mister Sandusky where written without thinking about what they just did. In the end more money for yarn and crafts.

Stephanie 1903

As the mother of a former athlete, I was outraged at the letter the USOC issued to Ravelry. I spent 16 years sitting through swim practices and meets all over the Eastern seaboard. I took my needlework with me, which helped pass some of the endless hours. I gave up family events and time with friends to show my support for my daughter, her sport, and her teammates. To read that my knitting during the Olympics was denigrating to the athletes participating was a slap in the face. If anyone knows about their dedication and hard work and the sacrifices made by them and their families, I speak from experience.

I will not boycott the Olympics. Those men and women who have put blood, sweat and tears into their sport deserve our support. They did not have anything to do with that ridiculous letter. However, the people who issued that letter, the person who composed it, and the entire Olympic committee that supported it should be fired! If anyone could denigrate everything the Olympics stands for, it would be them. I am embarrassed for them for their stupidity and crass disregard for the Olympians they represent.

Oh! I will still be knitting, right through the entire Olympics:P


There’s so much I’d like to say, but it’s been well addressed by the previous speakers. It’s too bad so many people think they are better than the main stream, when in fact, without us , as subscribers, parents of athletes, and contributers of sweat and dollars, they would not be where they are today and would not be gaining monetarily. Shame on them. And Good for my fellow knitters, and needlework artists. Ravelry has it right, GO RAVELRY!!! I’ll join your Olympics any day.


In moderation, I agree with everyone else.


Thank you for saying it so well for so many of us!


Thank you, Mr. Levisay, for your excellent response! I have a somewhat different “take” on the cavalier dismissal of fiber artists by the USOC.

From all reports, the insulting letter was written (or “tweaked”) by a summer law intern. I am an ex-lawyer, (an ex-litigator, actually), and worked as a summer law intern while in law school. I can tell you quite honestly that nothing – absolutely nothing! – I wrote in that capacity ever left my desk without having been reviewed by my supervisor; not even an internal memo, much less a letter to another organization. That’s why they are internships, not associateships or partnerships – an intern is learning, and requires supervision. The USOC failed its intern through its failure to supervise him, and they have essentially thrown him under the bus. That is the “charitable” view of their actions.

The less charitable view has them fobbing off the C&D letter to a summer intern because they viewed the members of Ravelry as just a bunch of grannies (or weirdos or women or whatever people you think are not as awesome as Olympic athletes), then not even bothering to review what he had written. If the insulting language truly is a part of their boilerplate C&D letter, that gives you some insight into how the USOC views every organization outside itself. A reality check is in order.

The summer intern is at fault for the insulting language, but so is the USOC for providing him a template containing insulting language. Given my years in the profession, I can tell you that it is entirely possible to write a C&D letter that says, essentially, “We have noticed that you are using our name and/or logo(s), and hereby request that you cease and desist in such usage” without stating that your impermissible use is “denigrating” or being “disrespectful” to your organization.

As for the patronizing “you can send us free stuff” comment, talk about tone-deaf and clueless! That guy reminds me of certain friends of my mother’s; I made a lot of things for my mother, and invariably one of her friends would say something like, “You can make me one, too!” as if I just “whipped up” one of her sweaters in an afternoon. Such people have no idea what is involved in making the things we make – not the time, the effort, nor the materials – and they are really not worth our time.

As for the Olympics? I haven’t watched since high school back in the ’70s, and don’t plan to start now. I don’t care much for sports generally, and this incident has not caused me to change my mind.


WELL SAID,!!!!!L!!!


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