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Anna Woodham: Collecting London 2012 – one year on

woodham-annaLegacy - a word I've heard uttered a hundred times, with a year passing since the start of the London Olympics.

A ComRes poll for the BBC asks was it worth it? Government publishes its post Games evaluation of legacy and impact and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park opens itself for business once again.

Most of us I think were expecting a dissection of Games "legacy" along the lines of what has materialised, such as sports participation, elite sports funding, numbers of people volunteering. etc.

I want to take a different perspective for a moment and hopefully it's one you'll find of interest. What about the "stuff" of the Games? What is the legacy of all this stuff? And how do we, to use some policy jargon "maximise", this legacy?

london 2012 logo pins London 2012 memorabilia will provide one of the most lasting impacts of the Games

By "stuff" I mean the memorabilia, the material culture of London 2012, the pin badges, the souvenirs, the tangible (and perhaps intangible) traces that are left when the Games themselves have departed. It may sound odd to think about these "things" in terms of a Games legacy but I think we should try to, as it is through this stuff that we see one of the most lasting impacts of the Games – the creation of personal and collective memories.

I'm pretty certain that anyone who attended one of the London 2012 events last year would have kept something as a memento. A ticket maybe, or a photo taken on a phone, a "check in" on foursquare, perhaps a tweet or a Facebook post (I think our digital record of the Games is also a "collection").

I am also quite certain that even if you didn't attend a London 2012 related event you will have an awareness of London 2012 or Games related "stuff" on sale in supermarkets, in department stores, decorations in town centres, posters at train and underground stations, on food packaging and clothing. We were (over)exposed to it and whether we liked it or not, the stuff of the Games created the visual landscape of London 2012.

My visit to the Spectators' Village at the Anniversary Games prompted me to think about the role of Olympics "stuff" and my conversations with some of the pin traders there started the cogs turning. If objects act as hooks on which to hang memories, and memories help shape who we are, then it follows that the "stuff" of the Games could be a very powerful resource through which to talk about cultural, national and personal identity.

A range of age groups were represented at the pin trading stalls - not least because there were some freebies available for the kids - but something that struck me were the numbers of conversations happening, extending several metres from the tables.

These weren't necessarily between people that knew each other or who were necessarily ardent collectors - although to be fair some were- but the badges acted as a common language through which to talk about "do you remember when..." or "I did [fill in the gap] during the Games...."

london 2012 olympic parkThe Olympic Park would be the perfect home for a London 2012 museum

I am interested in museums and in what these organisations do for society, why we have them and what they contribute. A dedicated London 2012 museum is an idea that has received quite a bit of discussion but hasn't been prioritised, perhaps in part because of some serious belt-tightening across the board.

It is also true to say that setting up a new museum should not be taken lightly, indeed it seems that some local authorities looking to make cuts are only just realising that the responsibility for the collections in their local museums bring a long term commitment which can't easily be ditched.

However, it does seem at odds with the overwhelming popularity of London 2012 that a permanent home for the "stuff of the Games" can't be found and put to work. Crucially, if this were to happen the location needs to be in a place that adds an additional layer of significance to the collection. The Park, already a site of pilgrimage for many, would arguably fit the bill.

In terms of participation levels maybe policy makers are looking in the wrong place for their legacy, as collecting is, according to former IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, the "sport of the spectator". One year on, we need to recognise this or it might just turn out to be the metaphorical white elephant that everyone wanted to avoid.

Anna Woodham works at the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage, University of Birmingham, UK

Mark Kass: The morning after the night before

Mark KassWow! What a summer!

It's nearly two months since they blew out the flame at the London 2012 Paralympic Games...and I'm still shattered!

Not content with being a Games Maker at the Para's, seeing a load of incredible, perception shattering world class sport and occasionally squeezing in some of the day job, I was honoured to have been one of a handful of pin collectors who volunteered to work in the Coca Cola Pin Trading Centre on the Olympic Park and in Hyde Park.

It is amazing where a hobby can take you. When I first started collecting pins, I never dreamed I would be trading the things at the London Games but I'm certainly glad I did.

I met people from all over the world, from all walks of life, of all ages and with varying degrees of knowledge about pins from the "what the hell is this pin trading thing all about?" brigade to the "I've been collecting for the last 30 years!" mob. Amazing. Inspirational. Humbling...I'm running out of words to describe what we went through.

There were a couple of weird moments though:

•              The young American kid who was insistent he could trade food for pins....I'm not sure his request for a rarer-than-hens-teeth Opening Ceremony pin was worth trading for a tuna, cucumber and mayo baguette.....but after six hours of cattle trading pins for pins, it was rather tempting!


•              The wheelchair bound Paralympic Team Coach from an Eastern European country who kept his stock of pin swaps in his hollowed out leg...I did do some of my best trades with him and he did some of the best "haven't got a leg to stand on" jokes I've heard in a long time.

quiet london_post_games_31-10-12London felt almost post-apocalyptic following the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

But the most surreal moment was waking up on the Monday morning of September 10 and walking through Stratford at 8am on my way into work.

Compared with the weeks before where a semi-permanent heaving mass of global human ants clamoured around station entrances, in shops and in bars and cafes, walking through the shopping centre that morning felt almost post-apocalyptic. It was morgue-like. Deathly quiet apart from the occasional trundling of an athlete's baggage being wheeled across the mall en route to some exotic country far away. The occasional throb and buzz of the floor polishing buffers removing last night's chewing gum, trainer scuffs and pretzel squishings. We've all witnessed this. The morning after the night before. That Wedding. That Bar Mitzvah. That 18th Birthday. The incredible high followed by that flat, hangover kinda feel. Very weird. Very surreal.

Then something inside me snapped. I couldn't cope with this. I needed my Games-time high again. I needed just one more shot of something exciting. Where do you get this the morning after the night before? It wasn't something a double espresso would resolve, nor a Bloody Mary cocktail or even some illegal narcotic. I need to be part of the Games again. So I went home!

I took off my boring suit and tie, dumped the brief case in the lounge and ran upstairs to put on my purple and poppy coloured superhero suit. My Games Maker uniform. But even that felt incomplete. I needed to grab my pin trading lanyard and only then I could jump on the Tube to the West End to join the Athletes Parade. Only then would I be able to put closure on the whole thing. Having one last trade and wearing the outfit that quite frankly made me look like a pregnant purple Space Hopper would sort me out. Not quite.

athletes paradeAttending the Athletes Parade in London felt good to be part of something so historical

It was an incredible event. Screaming, crowd jostling, smiles, laughter, policemen wearing the foam fingers. I couldn't see any athletes 'cos of the other million people in Trafalgar Square all with the same sense of the morning after the night before but it felt good to be part of something historical.

Hysterically I got the urge to trade and started accosting a variety of people who I thought might be in the mood for a trade. But it wasn't until I got back on the Tube that I did a good trade with a very sombre Aussie dude who loved my orange logo pin and was prepared to swap it for a Dow Pin I hadn't managed to secure. Result!

And this only went and fired up my pin trading urge once again. So I fired up Twitter, email, Facebook, LinkedIn on my smartphone and made sure I got myself along to the next pin trading meeting in Stratford two weeks later

Ahhhh! This was just what the doctor ordered. A wet Saturday in the Railway Tavern was where it all started for me and it was great to be back. I saw some cool collections, some new pins and merchandise that I'd never seen before and did some great trades on the day but better still got to catch-up with fellow traders to rekindle some Games-time stories.

Mark Kass_being_interviewedA pin trading meeting was just what the doctor ordered to cure the post-London 2012 blues

Once again, it was brilliantly organised (thanks, Paul), best ever attendance and we people had travelled for miles specifically to get there. Sylvia the student who'd travelled down by train from Edinburgh, some guys from Leicester, another form Ipswich and two from another country I couldn't even pronounce, made it a great day. There were even some others who didn't come to trade. They just wanted the power of the Games to wash over them just one more time.

It was indeed a well-deserved shot-in-the-arm and has still left me still wanting more. I shan't complain though as I suppose that's my legacy from the Games...and not a bad one to have!

Mark Kass is an entrepreneur and a Director of an East London business support agency. He is a vocal ambassador for SMEs representing small businesses in consultations with LOCOG, the ODA (Olympic Delivery Authority), OPLC (Olympic Park Legacy Company) and the East London Boroughs. Now an avid fan of the Games, Mark showed no interest in sport until his East London "manor" pitched and won the rights to host the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. He's a passionate advocate of the global opportunities the Games brings for SME's of all sizes and wants to see more people become entrepreneurs in East London and beyond. To follow him on Twitter click here.

Mark Kass: A funny thing happened on the way home from the Forum

Mark KassAs usual, I was colour coordinated. Dark suit. White shirt. Orange silk tie with matching orange London 2012 Olympic pin proudly displayed on my left lapel. Around 10:30pm, I eventually got on to a very crowded tube train coming back from yet another networking forum in London's Oxford Street; a good night, plenty of free wine and canapés and I'm thinking to myself, " and they call this work?" I had also managed to get a fresh copy of the Evening Standard to read and find a seat so I was rather looking forward to sitting down for an hour as I made the trek east along the Central line to Kass Towers.

Deeply engrossed in my newspaper, reading about the outrageous and escalating price of Dublin Bay prawns in London and the South East, I glimpsed the next batch of commuters squeezing into my carriage like cows jammed into an abattoir truck. How lucky am I, I thought, that it wasn't me standing pressed nose-to-armpit against this very sweaty, large American lady this evening.

And then I started to hear angels sing. My focus tunneled & narrowed in to reveal this vision of God-sent beauty now on the same train as me. Right next to me. Totally gorgeous. I could have sworn this vision was now calling me "Mark! Mark! Yes you want me, yes me, I'm yours if you want me". I started staring, longer, harder and more intently and I felt my jaw starting to gape, my lips drying up and tongue getting thicker by the second...surely this is what love is?

At every glance, the calling got stronger and the vision was now glowing among a mass of bodies like a shaft of sunlight streaking through a dark clouded sky. I knew right there and then that we needed to be together. My ears filled with the sound of my own pounding heart. My breath shallowed and the butterflies in my tummy started their internal synchronized swim. At last I had seen my heart's desire. And then I heard the words...

Orange London_2012_logo_pinMark makes sure his pins colour coordinate with his ties for work

"Oi! Olympic Bloke! Why are you staring at my wife's chest?" As if someone had flipped the off button on my iPod in the middle of the full 3 minute guitar solo from Hotel California, the angels suddenly stopped singing, the pounding in my ears disappeared and I gulped audibly as I came back to reality. This rather burly Neanderthal City-type was now inches away from my face, breath stinking of late night booze and oniony-kebabs and my vision of beauty had now changed into an angry thug of Bethnal Green, waving his garlic sauce-tainted and somewhat accusing fingers at me. "I er, wasn't staring at her er, chest", I spluttered. "Oh yeh? he yelled. "Certainly looked like it to me from 'ere, mate," he barked.

I quickly glanced at the aforementioned chest, which was rather voluminous and oozing from a blouse like billowing lava globules emanating from Mount Etna. "I was though, staring at what's on her chest.....that gorgeous looking pin badge!"

You know that moment when the Sheriff bursts into the bar full of baddies in Dodge City and the whole place falls silent? Well that is what happened next. For what seemed like an age, the whole carriage fell silent, waiting for the sound of my nose to be broken by a thug bloke.

Silence was broken instead by Ms Etnachest, who cackled with a laugh that could turn milk into yoghurt, "Wha'?? You mean this fing?" she yelped, pulling on her shiny silver Cisco 2012 sponsors pin - my vision of beauty.

Cisco 2012_sponsor_pinCisco 2012 sponsor pin, manufactured by Honav

"You wan' it, Fatboy...whadda I get in return then??"

Thug bloke was now rolling up his sleeves and warming up on the ropes ready to rearrange my face if my answer wasn't what he wanted to hear. Immediately I thought a sensible answer might be more appropriate as opposed to one of my usual Oscar Wilde-like witty retorts.

"We could swap?" I suggested," my orange badge for your silver one?"

By now, the whole carriage was engrossed in this deal. I've been involved in some pretty hefty, multi-million pound negotiations with some of the toughest lawyers, bankers and venture capitalist in the world in the same room and at the same table but it was never as tense as this.

Following a sharp and audible intake of breath from our fellow travelers, the tube fell silent again only to be swiftly broken by Etnachest.

"Awright then babe, a deal ! I love the colour. Dat orange is the same colour as the chilli sauce stain on his two 'undred quid shirt and 'as him an me 'ad such a great night together tonight, I'll swap your orange one for this shiny thing I found on the floor of the boozer this evening"

Oh my goodness! I thought. How someone could treat such a thing of beauty with such little respect? (I am of course referring to the pin on this occasion).

Olympic pins_hat_collectionPin collecting is considered the biggest spectator sport at the London 2012 Games

The deal was done, the thug bloke rolled down his sleeves and in my mind, my nose reset itself. The moments of fear passed and Thugbloke and Etnachest got off at Stratford mumbling things like "fat geezers always make you larf", "a geek what collects fings" "weirdo", "punch 'is lights out" etc. etc.

The tube train rattled its way further towards the Far East where I get off rather chuffed with myself and with what remains my favourite pin so far. When I got home, I de-kebabed it , removing traces of all grease, chilli sauce and bits of onion and lamb and added it to my now fast-growing collection of sponsors pins where it takes pride of place in my London 2012 shrine.

For those reading this and about to get into the whole pin-thing, here are my Top 11 hints and tips for fellow pin collectors:

1          Staring at chests of people is hazardous to health

2          Beware men smelling of kebabs

3          Check everywhere for collectable pins...I now spend a lot of time on all fours in pubs, clubs and other public places

4          Gentle banter is far better than doing stuff that may end up with your nose 20 centimeters wider than it was at the start of the day

5          Don't just check pins for validity, check for stray pieces of someone else's supper

6          Beware women who anatomically demonstrate plate tectonics and the formation of natural mountain ranges

7          Maybe consider stamp collecting, snorkeling or storm chasing as a hobby

8          Always carry a 2012 Orange logo pin when eating kebabs just in case of spillage and a selection of others for spontaneous trading moments

9          Travelling by tube is a great way to see pins...why bother with the internet or pin trader meetings

10         Be very nice and appreciative to our finest, nicest and most generous London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games suppliers and sponsors such as Coca Cola, Samsung, Panasonic, Rio Tinto, Eurostar, Aggreko, Westfield, Heineken, Adidas, British Airways, ATOS, McDonalds, G4S, Airwave, Honav, BBC, Channel 4, Dow who may want to get in touch with the author and send boxes full of pins for trading and collecting because you mention them in blogs on world-class Games related websites......thanks guys we love all your products and services!

11         See Hint #1

Mark Kass is an entrepreneur and a Director of an East London business support agency. He is a vocal ambassador for SMEs representing small businesses in consultations with LOCOG, the ODA (Olympic Delivery Authority), OPLC (Olympic Park Legacy Company) and the East London Boroughs. Now an avid fan of the Games, Mark showed no interest in sport until his East London "manor" pitched and won the rights to host the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. He's a passionate advocate of the global opportunities the Games brings for SME's of all sizes and wants to see more people become entrepreneurs in East London and beyond. To follow him on Twitter click here

honav-uk-logoHonav is the official manufacturer of pins for London 2012

Noah Chamberlain: The Olympic pin – one small item that can tell a hundred big stories...

Noah Chamberlain_-_Honav_5_May_12Many of us have treasure boxes where we stash our souvenirs of life's precious moments. It may be an old shoebox in the attic or a spare space at the back of a drawer. Contents probably include awards, greeting cards, special event tickets and even oddments such as locks of hair, sentimental gifts and other symbols of special times, people and places.

Whatever the container or location, for those who have been lucky enough to attend an Olympic Games, there will always be a collection of Olympic pins in the mix.

Most Olympians, whether they attained an Olympic medal or not, will have their participation pin stashed alongside those gifted from their fellow competitors or new friends made.

Ask any Olympic journalist and they will all have a few tucked away that represent their time in an Olympic city, each having a story to tell. Games volunteers treasure their official workforce pin and the many others gifted from visitors as thank-yous for their hard work in delivering the Games, usually still attached to their accreditation lanyards.

Inside the Movement, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Members fine gold wire Five Ring Member pin remains a treasure for all, along with those exchanged by the many they have had contact with during their tenure.

The stories of the exchanges and circumstances that resulted in these small metal symbols becoming emblems of special times are as varied as the hundreds of thousands of designs that have been produced in the 100 years of Olympic spectator pins. In May 1912 the first spectator pin – a pure silver stick pin – was produced and offered for sale for the Stockholm Games.

In celebration of this 100th anniversary, we have compiled a few stories that demonstrate the significance of these small yet important pieces of metal and enamel that accompany every Olympic Games and hope to add to these with your pin experiences.

In Atlanta 1996, a Sydney 2000 Games employee was visiting the Reebok athlete outfitting centre. A proud and rather sombre lady standing across the huge tent was pointed out as one of Nadia Comaneci's coaches. Without thinking, the naive and highly enthusiastic Australian bounded across the area to gift a Sydney pin. "Please, Madam, promise you will come to the Sydney Games," she blurted, having been inspired most of her life by that achieved by the outstanding Romanian Olympian and her support team.

London 2012_gender_pin_5_May_12
She was somewhat disappointed at the rather cold response and returned to her delegation undaunted and simply pleased to have shaken the hand of the wind beneath Nadia's wings.

A few minutes later as she was leaving, she received a tap on the shoulder and turned to see that Madam was standing there along with an interpreter who explained, "Madam was very embarrassed when you presented her with your kind and generous gift. The coaches of her team were not issued with any pins for these Games and she had nothing to offer you in return. However, she would like to give you this along with the promise that she will try to come to Sydney."

In Madam's hand was a woven cloth badge of her country's emblem, and glancing at the coach's jacket the Aussie noticed the remains of the stitches on the pocket where this identity was formerly attached. Hugs were exchanged, thank-yous shared through the interpreter, and this little piece of cloth became a much loved treasure and a symbol of the Olympic Spirit.

In Albertville 1992, a Games volunteer turning up for their first day on the job was embarrassed to be offered a pin from a tiny little Argentinian girl. She did not yet have any pins to offer in return. Undaunted the little princess rugged up warm against the biting cold simply smiled and in pidgin French replied, "A smile is all I ask".

Patricia Rosenbrock-Coles, wife of Australian IOC Member Phil Coles, reported without hesitation that one of her favourite pins was issued in Lillehammer at the sponsor hospitality facility. The Lillehammer 1994 emblem is embellished with the quirky statement of fact "I visited the Sponsor Loos" – no further explanation needed.

A pilot of the United Nations stationed in North West Africa purchased some Sydney 2000 pins at Sydney airport on his way back to his tour of duty. One day when ferrying a West African dignitary he offered up a pin as a gift. When returning to collect him two days later he was somewhat astounded to find a sheep and goat tethered at the side of the runway as a return thank-you. It remains to this day one of the most unusual pin trades reported.
Nagano 1998_Snowlet_curling_pin_5_May_12
Olympic pins are not only produced for the Games but also surrounding Olympic-related happenings and milestones. Speak to anyone on the Salzburg 2014 Winter Games Olympic Bid and they will confess that the Salzburg logo pin, with the words "thank you" attached, that was issued to them for their efforts, although unsuccessful, remains a bittersweet memento.

A group of Atlanta 1996 sponsors dining out in Barcelona during the 1992 Games jokingly enquired of their waiter how many drinks could be bought for an Atlanta Olympic pin. The friendly Catalan thought about it for a moment and scurried away. They were shocked when he returned with seven large jugs of sangria, one for each guest in return for a single pin. At the 1995 test events for the Atlanta Games, a group of Australian sponsors claimed they exceeded this trade with 13 margaritas for a single Sydney bid pin. This ongoing competition among Games and the unofficial currency value of Olympic pins continues although most of the claims cannot (or should not) be verified.

From Olympic truck pins whose wheels rotate to pins that swivel to tell a story, from countdown days to Ceremonies, Games-specific roles and venues, such as broadcast, Olympic Villages, hospitality and catering through to National Olympic Committee Emblems. The list of Olympic stories and favourite designs is almost endless.  From pins that project humour to graphics commemorating moments, attendance, achievements or simply the small offerings given in return for Olympic pins, the tradition continues.

Nominations received for the most popular designs to date include: the Lillehammer 1994 anti-doping pin, sleeps to go for Sydney 2000, the Swatch Atlanta 1996 mini-watch pin collection, the Rio 2016 3D gold staff pin, the London 2012 gender pin (pictured above), the Beijing 2008 ethnic collection and the Nagano 1998 Snowlet curling pin (pictured above).

What is your favourite pin or pin story? In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Olympic spectator pins, we want to hear your anecdotes or simply your favourite design.

To celebrate insidethegames' partnership with pin manufacturers Honav UK, insidethegames and insidegamescollecting are giving readers the opportunity to win a collection of stunning London 2012 pins by entering our exclusive competition; My Favourite Pin Story. For more details click here.

Honav logoNoah Chamberlain works for Honav UK, the exclusive licensee of commemorative lapel pins for London 2012.

Mark Kass: Olympic pins, so much more than just a brand story

Mark Kass_16_MarchWhen I first stepped into the East End boozer in a quiet corner of Stratford just before Christmas, it felt like I'd become an extra in the background of a Guy Ritchie movie. Men were huddled in a corner whispering, planning, plotting and growling – it was plain to see that plenty of deals were being cobbled together.

But they weren't haggling over the price of second-hand cars or planning the next "blag". They were laying down the foundations of what's going to become London's number one spectator sport during the Olympic Games: pin trading.

It was my first "meet" and it was a little surreal to say the least. When the Guy Ritchie crew joined a mixed bag of 20 or so grown men and women: bags, cases, boards, ring binders and pockets stuffed full of an amazing array of Olympic and Paralympic Games lapel badges and pins flew open. It all went crazy with old and new pins being swapped and traded like I've only ever seen before in the street markets of far off lands.

It was a little scary as I could feel the need to get stuck in building up and, dare I say it, it felt a bit "geeky" being a part of this. Quite ironic really, that the venue of the meet was in a great little pub called the Railway Tavern since I felt I was among the train spotters of the merchandising world!

Having spent the afternoon in the company of some of the friendliest, most knowledgeable and totally dedicated people I've ever come across, I got home, researched this phenomenon and realised that this was just the beginning of something big that was about to burst into our East End lives. Clearly, it's big business too, so I decided to delve further.

Those in the know say that as you step off the plane in an Olympic Host City, you fail to notice the glitz and glamour of countless lapel badges or pins displayed on shirts, caps, scarves, waistcoats, lanyards, towels and sashes. Worn by everyone from officials, guides, the media and shopkeepers, everyone and, in particular, the vast armies of "pinheads" are keen to show off their collections and maybe swap one of theirs for something of yours.

The reasons for pins being commissioned to represent all-things-Olympic are limitless, but the phenomenal range produced by sponsors, corporate partners and official commercial providers shows what big business commercial association with the Games is. But pins weren't originally designed to show off brands or promote the Games; they were originally sold to fund the Olympiad.

The 1912 Games in Stockholm saw the first commercially available pins on sale (before Stockholm, they were cardboard discs and only worn by officials and the IOC (International Olympic Committees)) and as pin trading grew in popularity, it did so unprecedentedly so that by the infamous Berlin Games of 1936, over a million pins had been sold to raise funds.

Pin Head_16_March_
Pin trading continued to grow and supported a huge Olympic memorabilia and merchandising industry. By the time the Los Angeles Olympics came along, an estimated 17 million pins were being traded on street corners, in cafes and in dedicated, but as yet unofficial pin trading areas, across the Host City. Such was the size of the industry, vast numbers of counterfeit pins started to emerge in an attempt to cash in on the rise of pin mania.

Realising the huge potential for pin collecting, the 1988 Calgary Olympics saw the first official pin trading centre established on-site, headed up by one of the world's best known brands and principal global Olympic Worldwide Sponsors, Coca Cola.

But Coke didn't just take over a pub conservatory, put up a few posters and invite in a few traders. They created the first ever purpose built and fully branded Olympic pin trading centre drawing in crowds of more than 17,000 new and potential pinheads of the world to gather and trade on one site and another a few miles away on a university campus that attracted another 5,000 daily visits.

The 1992 Winter Games at Albertville in France attracted more than a third of a million collectors who traded more than 1.2 million pins from 6,000 square foot dedicated tent backed up by a fleet of "pinmobiles" and a double-decker bus that travelled the roads of France to capture the spirit (and, of course, the revenue opportunities) of pin mania. Barcelona saw half a million dedicated traders, but in 1996 the pin epidemic had gone totally bonkers with 1.5 million traders on-site and three million pins changing hands at two centres in 40,000 square foot of converted freight warehousing in Atlanta. At the Sydney Games in 2000, Coca Cola started trading six months before the Games in temporary kiosks replacing it with an iconic, 12,000 square foot purpose built centre in the shape of a bright red illuminated Coke bottle laying on its side.

Hand-in-hand with the trading and dealing among collectors, a global business has grown out of pin trading. Coke and other merchandise providers have sold millions of pins that generate significant revenues and shamelessly promote their brands. Coke run brand focussed "activation" spectator events alongside these remarkable pin centres and LOCOG (The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) stands to generate huge sums from the sales of tens of thousands of official pins, all of which are channelled back into paying for the running of both the Olympic and Paralympics.

A couple of the "Pin Gurus" at Coca Cola, who are now resident here in the UK until after the Games, told me that for the first time since their involvement in event licensing, they would be channelling all proceeds from sales of Coke pins at London 2012 to the official Olympic charity. They wouldn't divulge targets, but I suspect they're expecting a significant donation to be made.

Coke badge_2012_16_March_
This is an incredible move on the part of Coke and represents their true commitment to investing in creating a sustainable Olympic movement for the future as well as solidifying their own brand story.

When the Games end, collectors will take home their London 2012 Coca-Cola pins and proudly display them in kitchens, dens, lounges and studies across the globe. Some will get bored of them and stick them in a cupboard for the grandkids, but if they consider giving them away, it's a near 100% dead-cert that none will give them away for nothing.

Some rare pins are trading on eBay at nearly £4,000 each (NB: beware of fakes)! But for those thinking they might flog them off to the highest bidder then "good luck" as most will have little or no commercial value after the flame's blown out.

Coke will, of course, be rather chuffed to think that trading and selling went on post-Games as any deal done around the Coke name provides them yet another brand-strengthening story and creates yet more long-lasting impressions of the Coke name. And this is exactly why event licensing, product merchandising and sponsorship activation is so powerful for sponsors.

Coke – the new owners of Innocent Smoothies brand who will soon be activating their London 2012 sponsorship programme – have made a really bold move in the corporate social responsibility arena. Perhaps this generous community investment will attract even more new pin heads and underpin Coke's growing global corporate commitment to giving something back to its customer base.

Although I'm not CEO of a major global brand, I now get pin trading and the concept of business giving back. I strongly suggest everyone in the business world gets it too. There will always be fans of your brand and they can do no wrong if you don't. Think about clever ways of promoting your brand story and aligning yourselves with your local community... wouldn't it be good to get your fans talking about your business in their local pub?

To find out more about pin collecting visit insidegamescollecting by clicking here.

Or you can join our dedicated collecting facebook page by clicking here.

Mark Kass is an entrepreneur and a Director of an East London business support agency. He is a vocal ambassador for SMEs representing small businesses in consultations with LOCOG, the ODA (Olympic Delivery Authority), OPLC (Olympic Park Legacy Company) and the East London Boroughs. Now an avid fan of the Games, Mark showed no interest in sport until his East London "manor" pitched and won the rights to host the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. He's a passionate advocate of the global opportunities the Games brings for SME's of all sizes and wants to see more people become entrepreneurs in East London and beyond. To follow him on Twitter click here.

honav-uk-logoHonav is the official manufacturer of pins for London 2012