Beijing strips Carrefour workers of goodwill hats

BEIJING Tue Apr 29, 2008 6:35am EDT

BEIJING (Reuters) - French supermarket chain Carrefour has stripped caps embossed with Olympic insignia from employees at Chinese branches after Beijing Games organizers deemed them a copyright violation.

Carrefour, which has become a focus of Chinese nationalist anger after anti-China protesters disrupted the Paris leg of the Olympic torch relay, had clad its employees in uniforms marked with China's national flag and caps embossed with the Olympic rings and "Beijing 2008" in recent days, local media reported last week.

The wardrobe adjustment came in the wake of street protests in several Chinese cities which targeted Carrefour and called for a boycott of French goods.

The Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) had deemed the caps an illegal use of the Olympic insignia, the Beijing Times said in a report posted on official web portal Xinhuanet (www.xinhuanet.com) on Tuesday, and demanded Carrefour stop using them.

"Employees wearing the new uniforms had already taken off their hats," the paper said, after a survey of several branches in Beijing.

"(BOCOG) said the Olympic symbol-embossed caps had a commercial agenda, and were in violation," the paper quoted an unnamed employee at one branch, as saying.

The International Olympic Committee strictly enforces copyright on Games symbols and logos, and Beijing authorities have been busy reining in companies seeking commercial gains by falsely aligning themselves to the movement.

A BOCOG spokesman contacted by telephone was not immediately able to provide comment. A spokesperson at Carrefour's China office was unavailable for comment.

Carrefour last week cancelled a sales promotion planned for the May Day holiday which would see sales decline 20 percent over the same period last year, state media reported, citing a company spokesman.

Carrefour has denied accusations by some Chinese that it backs the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader who is the target of fierce criticism from Beijing.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Nick Macfie)

("Countdown to Beijing Olympics" blog at

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