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VISA: The Only Card Accepted at the 2010 Olympic Games

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada is hosting the 2010 Olympic Games in February.

One of their biggest sponsors (called Global Sponsors) is VISA. As a result of their sponsorship, VISA is the only payment card accepted at the 2010 Olympic Games.

You heard me. That means no MasterCard, no American Express and NO DEBIT CARDS (Interac).

I suppose I could almost understand not accepting any other credit card, but debit cards too?

Wait, I take that back, I don’t understand this at all.

The reach of the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver goes far beyond buying tickets to events. This includes buying Olympic merchandise as well. Want to buy some cool sweaters that are Olympic themed? Sure, hit your local HBC store or even better, go to the Official Vancouver 2010 Olympic Store – but be prepared. Nothing but VISA will do.

When I first heard about this, I wondered how much money could VISA possibly be giving to be rewarded with such a monopoly on payment methods for what could be the biggest worldwide event. The only number I really found was “USD $120 million worldwide in direct support to Olympic athletes“. I know, $120 million is a huge number – but in my opinion, not huge enough.

Who wins with this type of deal? VISA, surely. Consumers, definitely not. I wonder what percentage of adults carry and use a VISA product. What about the businesses? Could HBC (Hudson’s Bay Company) really be okay with dealing with the (what I can only assume) massive amount of shoppers that are finding themselves without a way to pay for their new goods?

It does sound as though merchants have been told what to say in these situations. A friend of mine said when she tried unsuccessfully to purchase some 2010 Olympic merchandise she was told to go get a VISA cheque card. I found this to be very poorly communicated. See the home page of the official store below:

Visa at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games

The only mention, in typical sponsor copy fashion, is hidden in the footer. Not only that, but it’s incredibly hard to read, as you can see from this screepcap taken at 100%.

VISA at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic GamesIn the store’s FAQ, this is addressed in just a couple of lines.

How can I pay for my order?
The Olympic Store accepts Visa.

Which credit cards can I use?
The only credit card accepted by the Olympic Store is Visa.

I also found, buried in the Olympic Games Media Kit page, a “helpful” PDF regarding “tips … intended to help cardholders and non-cardfolders travelling to the Games with the best way to handle their expenses.” Of course, all they say to do is get a VISA card. REAL helpful. Awesome.

Think of all the people traveling from all over the world. They’re being forced to get a credit card. Canada and the US for sure have VISA Debit/Cheque cards that (I think) don’t require a credit check, but I don’t dare assume all other countries do.

I’m shocked that the folks behind the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games would allow such a restricting and binding sponsorship that clearly benefits only ONE party. Shame on you VANOC. You forgot who the games are really all about.