U.S. Olympic Committee wants Olympics footage out of campaign ads

The U.S. Olympic Committee has a message for the presidential candidates and their supporters: leave the Games out of your politics.

The committee today panned an ad released Wednesday by Priorities USA Action, the “super PAC” supporting President Obama, which made ample use of old Olympics footage of Mitt Romney at the 2002 Winter Olympics. The spot poked fun at Romney’s international investments and pointedly referred to foreign countries where Romney’s private equity firm, Bain Capital, helped create jobs.

That was not exactly in line with the Olympic spirit, at least according to the USOC.

“The Olympic Games are a celebration of friendship, excellence and respect. While we are absolutely confident that neither presidential candidate nor campaign has participated in the production or distribution of these negative ads, the attacks, using Olympic themes and images, need to stop,” said USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky in a statement.


“Tomorrow we will celebrate America’s finest athletes’ accomplishments and watch Team USA march in the parade of nations,” Sandusky added. “For anything even remotely negative to be associated with that time-honored, inspirational moment would be extremely unfortunate.”

Olympics footage is not just off-limits for attack ads. Sandusky specified the ban “pertains to all ads. We will not allow Olympic footage to be used in any political ad, positive or negative, per the IOC’s Olympic Charter."           

The restriction may spell bad news for Mitt Romney and his supporters, who point to Romney’s stewardship of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics as a key biographical selling point in his presidential campaign.

His campaign has already used Olympics imagery at least once – a Web video from last December, called “Leader,” refers to his involvement in the Games and features a shot of Romney decked out in Olympics gear.


The USOC will ask candidates to stop running any ads that include Olympics footage; it will also ask YouTube to take such ads down.

The Romney campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.               

As for Priorities USA, it will still run ads in four battleground states during the Olympics, but it will sub in a spot unveiled last month which hammers Romney for layoffs at an Indiana factory that occurred when his private equity firm, Bain Capital, took over.  

“When we were assured Mitt Romney and his allies would be held to the same standard, we were more than happy to take the ad down,” said Bill Burton, co-founder of the liberal super PAC.

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