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The Olympics gives the world’s most talented athletes a chance to show their abilities to people all over the globe. It also gives the world’s most wealthy marketers a chance to show their products to that same audience.

Among the Games’ biggest sponsors is Samsung, whose Galaxy Note 3 was granted the title of official phone of the Sochi Olympics in thanks of its manufacturer’s generosity. Some reports are claiming that the Korean electronics maker isn’t showing a respect for healthy competition, though, by asking athletes with iPhones to make sure they cover the Apple logo when on-camera.

The relationship between the Olympics and corporate sponsorship is largely accepted as a necessary, if somewhat distasteful, part of putting on such a large-scale event. After all, no one wants to see the best in the world compete in venues that look more appropriate for a junior college athletics meet. At the same time, realistically speaking, a lot of Olympic facilities won’t see anything more than limited use after the closing ceremonies.

▼ Admit it, you just sort of forgot luging existed for the last four years.

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Olympic-quality sports facilities don’t often make sense from a simple expense and revenue comparison, so in order to achieve the quality that competitors and spectators alike have come to expect, organizers need to solicit sponsorship money. And while we’re sure many companies open their wallets out of simple philanthropy, once you start talking about the kind of money necessary to be a marque sponsor, that cash outlaw has to be weighed against the possibility of how much goodwill, and with it future profit, the sponsorship is going to generate.

Such feelings are at least partly in play with Samsung, which has provided every athlete with his or her very own Galaxy Note 3. While we’re sure there are competitors from impoverished nations whose quest for Olympic glory has meant forgoing buying the latest electronics, it’s safe to assume that several Olympiads already have a smartphone. After all, most Olympic athletes are in the prime of their youth, making them digital natives for whom a smartphone is as much a lifestyle necessity as air conditioning or hot running water.

So why provide them with yet another phone?

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The obvious explanation is that Samsung hopes that people around the world will see their country’s representatives chatting away or snapping pictures with a Galaxy. Once they see the image enough, a connection will form between the company’s electronics and the healthy, successful Olympiads that are the very embodiment of hope and potential.

Given Samsung’s circumstances, it’s an understandable ambition, and given that the company currently holds the share of the smartphone market, their products obviously aren’t without merit. But like any business, Samsung wants the largest slice of the pie it can claim, and in its heart of hearts, it’d prefer that pie had no Apple.

▼ Samsung execs’ hatred of their rival is so intense it’s said they actually eat rhubarb.

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Media outlets including Switzerland’s Bluewin, China’s Sina, and MSN Japan/Sankei News West have reported that when athletes were given their Galaxies, they came with a written request. If they still chose to use their iPhone at the Games, they were asked to cover the Apple logo when cameras were present.

The rumor struck a nerve with advocates of both freedom of speech and Cupertino-designed telecommunications devices. Reporters in Japan spoke with a Japanese national who previously worked at Samsung, and who feels there may be some truth to the rumors. “It seems very much like something Samsung would do,” the former employee began, who said during his time with the Korean company he often heard executives telling subordinates, “Do whatever you have to in order to crush Apple.”

Samsung itself has denied asking athletes to cover the logos on the iPhones, and expanded on this by stating to reporters from the U.K.’s The Guardian that such branding decisions lie outside its jurisdiction at the games, and are instead the dominion of the International Olympic Committee. When questioned by The Guardian, the IOC also refuting the rumor, explicitly stating that athletes are free to use the electronics of their choice.

▼ So don’t throw away your Astels yet, Olympic hopefuls!

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Sources: Hachima Kiko, MSN Japan, The Guardian
Top image: Paperblog
Insert images: Koco, Apple iPhoner, Dawson’s Bakery, Boobytrap