Calling All Swimmers with the Olympic Rings Tattoo

May 2, 2016

Paralympic Swimmer disqualified due to a tattoo of the Olympic rings on his chest… Sparks call to arms against clueless IOC… 

It’s a branded rite of passage that announces membership in one of the most exclusive clubs on earth. For many it’s the only ink they’ll ever get. The Olympic rings tattoo – that’s one you’ll never regret. And over the last thirty years, it’s become more and more de rigueur among newly minted body proud Olympians. Except now apparently it’s illegal.

A few days ago British Paralympic champion Josef Craig was disqualified at the IPC European Swimming Championships because the 19-year-old has a tattoo of the rings emblazoned over his heart. He was DQ’d after his prelims swim in the 100 freestyle – because the tattoo of those rings “breached advertising regulations.” Said the utterly out of touch spokesman for the Paralympic International Committee: “Body advertising is not allowed in any way whatsoever and that includes the Olympic rings. The athlete did not wear a cover and was therefore disqualified.”

Um, excuse me? There are so many things wrong with this that one sputters trying to put the outraged thoughts in order. A tattoo of the Olympic rings is advertising? Oh really? So, that would mean that every Olympian is, by that definition, a spokesman or woman for the Olympic movement? When the athletes recite the Olympic Creed at the Opening Ceremony, is it in service of a corporate brand? Somewhere Pierre de Coubertin is rolling over in his grave.

There’s no sense enumerating all the numbskull behavior of the IOC. Like FIFA it’s a more or less corrupt and clueless organization that happens to oversee one of the planet’s most beautiful times of togetherness and competition. They’re bureaucracies drunk with power they only think they have. Like the TV networks that broadcast the Games, these organizations often convince themselves that theyare the center of it all. They’re not. Like the cameras that film the action, they are there merely in a role of subservience – to cover and support the actual stars of the show: the athletes.

But enough about the IOC, let’s get back to those tattoos. I think it’s time to shake things up a bit. To everyone who has the Olympic rings tattooed anywhere on your body: Take a pic and share it! Send it out far and wide. Let the IOC see exactly what they’re banning. Let them see the legions of proud Olympians, then and now, that have inked these rings forever on their body. That ink is now grounds to disqualify you from the very competition you sacrificed your young lives to get to. Sweet lords of irony, deliver me from this madness.

I’m one of that tribe with the ink. I got the tat in August of 1996 at a tattoo parlor in Dallas, Texas, a few weeks after the Atlanta Games. Got it over my heart, just like Josef Craig, along with the Canadian Maple Leaf. I’m proud to say that it was Canada that started this whole Olympic rings tattoo trend. It was Victor Davis in 1984, to be precise. At the Los Angeles Games, Davis raced to gold in 200 breaststroke with the Leaf and the rings tattooed over his heart. It soon became semi-required for future generations of Canadian Olympic swimmers. No one really talked about it, no one gave you a hard time if you didn’t do it; it was just one of those things that you felt compelled to do. Four years later the trend was picked up stateside. ’88 Olympian Chris Jacobs, a three-time medalist for Team USA, says he spotted Victor Davis’s tat and was inspired to follow suit. He’s believed to be the first U.S. Olympic swimmers that got the rings tat. Many others have since followed.

Are you one of them? If so, wherever you’re from, take a pic and share it. It’s time to call the IOC on this nonsense. For Paralympian Josef Craig and everyone else that wears the proudest tattoo there is – stand up on the blocks and wear it proud.

Dare them to disqualify one more athlete.