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Sochi Logo Gets Off to Rough Start

Deputy Prime Ministers Dmitry Kozak, left, and Alexander Zhukov presenting the logo of the 2014 Sochi Olympics at a news conference on Tuesday. Vladimir Filonov

The government unveiled its branding for the 2014 Sochi Olympics on Tuesday, becoming the first country to use a web site in the logo and putting a local Internet portal out of business in the process.

The logo — which combines Sochi.ru 2014 with the Olympic rings — reflects the goals of the Olympic Games for Russia and was decided upon after vast amounts of research in large cities in Russia and abroad, Dmitry Chernyshenko, head of the Sochi Organizing Committee, said at a news conference.

The logo was approved by top political leaders in September, he said.

“Russia is perceived as the biggest country, with a big soul, but which has its own path,” Chernyshenko said. It is still mysterious for foreigners, but it is “passionately loved by its countrymen,” and all of those perceptions were considered in choosing the logo, he said.

The use of the domain name calls to the younger generation and the digital revolution, while the .ru extension signifies that the Olympics are “a project for the whole country,” Chernyshenko said, flanked by top government and Olympics officials.

The logo was developed by London-based consultancy Interbrand Corporation, which won a tender to create the design. Chernyshenko declined to say how much was paid. “It was less than in London,” he said.

The logo of the London 2012 Games cost a reported £400,000 ($660,000).

Along with the logo, the organizing committee is starting a nationwide media campaign called “My Takiye,” or “The Way We Are,” which includes short television clips with patriotic slogans.

To a background of melodramatic music, a narrator reads phrases like “We earn the hard way in the North, but spend it easy in the South,” “Even in space, we can be first,” and “Even a weakness of ours can be strong.”

Work to choose a mascot — “whether a dolphin on skis, Snegurochka, or a bear gone polar,” — will begin in April, and the process will include a national referendum, Chernyshenko said.

The comment took the Central Election Commission by surprise, and a spokeswoman told Interfax that the procedure was unlikely. The country has not held a referendum since 1993.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge, who was on hand for the conference, offered his condolences after two trains were bombed in the past week. The IOC still “fully trusts” the Russian authorities to ensure a secure environment for the Games, he said.

Security concerns have been a persistent worry for the Sochi Olympics, which are being held in the volatile North Caucasus and not far from Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia.

Jean-Claude Killy, head of the IOC Coordination Commission for the Sochi Games, said he had “total confidence” and praised the government for its attention to the preparations. “I am completely charmed by this country,” Killy said, speaking in French.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, who is responsible for overseeing the preparations, said Russia “fully understands its responsibility” and that the first test sports events would be held at some venues in 2011.

Alexander Zhukov, a deputy prime minister whose purview includes sports and tourism, said he expected the number of Russians involved in sports to double after the Games.

The promotional campaign for the logo got off to a bad start. A version of the image was first leaked to the press last week, and the official graphic was immediately ridiculed by many bloggers for being simplistic, or alternatively, difficult to read.

But the biggest inconvenience was for a Sochi entrepreneur who had to restart his business from scratch after his Sochi.ru domain was handed over to the organizing committee.

The site — which now redirects to the committee’s web site, Sochi2014.ru — had been an information portal for the Black Sea resort town, with an e-mail service and advertisements for local services.

That site has moved to Sochi.com, which posted a statement for clients announcing the move, effective Aug. 20.

A source in the new web site’s administration told The Moscow Times that Sochi.ru had belonged to a private company for five years, and that the move was “a complete surprise.”

The business lost 75 percent of its clients and is now having problems moving its 1,500 mail-service users to the new domain.

“We basically had to start a new business,” said the source, who requested that his name not be given. The company got no money for the domain and is not being compensated for its losses, he said.

The organizing committee said only that “in keeping with standard business practice, it is not our policy to comment on the transfer of ownership rights for the www.sochi.ru web address.”

The government has been compensating landowners whose property is seized under eminent domain, but the law on the Olympics did not require it to pay former owners of now-trademarked items.

The law, passed in December 2007, includes an article on Olympic symbols, said Andrei Vorobyov, a spokesman for domain name registrar Ru-Center. Under the law, words like Olympic, Sochi2014, and their derivatives are considered Olympic symbols, and companies can only use them by special agreement.

Even though the original owners, who registered the domain in 2004, had no way of knowing that Sochi would win the Olympics, the committee had the right to request the web site, and “no compensation is mentioned in the law,” Vorobyov said.

It would cost about $20,000 to market a web site so that it achieved the popularity of the previous Sochi.ru, he said.

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