February 11, 2012 / 6:06 PM / 8 years ago

Luge-Tongan changes name to brand in bid for Olympic glory

BERLIN, Feb 11 (Reuters) - A luger from the south Pacific island of Tonga caused a stir at the world championships in Altenberg on Saturday - not for his unusual choice of sport but for his name, which he had changed to that of his sponsor.

Bruno Banani was born Fuahea Semi but changed his name to that of a German underwear maker as he seeks to become his nation’s first winter Olympian at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.

His move angered International Olympic Committee Vice President Thomas Bach, who called it a “perverse marketing idea.”

“It is of bad taste to change your name to that of a sponsor. That is too much for me. This has nothing to do with proper marketing,” Bach said.

Bach said however should the Tongan qualify for the Sochi Games there would be nothing the IOC could do to stop him from competing under that name.

“I do not think that we can react to this if that is the name in his passport,” Bach said.

The IOC is extremely sensitive to ambush marketing tactics during Olympic Games as it seeks to protect its sponsors who have paid hundreds of millions for the rights to advertise.

Earlier a Tonga official told reporters the move was to raise money as the country seeks to send their first athlete to the Winter Games. (Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Alison Wildey)

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