Sorting through official, knock-off Olympic merchandise

Superstores, street vendors have about anything you could imagine

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Editor’s note; Tom Ecker of Cedar Rapids is an Olympic historian

By Tom Ecker, correspondent

RIO DE JANEIRO — One of the most popular activities at any Olympic Games is souvenir shopping. And there are many opportunities to shop, since there are 19 official Olympic Superstores here in Rio.

The biggest of these — and it is really big — is the Copacabana Beach Megastore, which has a floor space the size of a football field. For sale there are almost 3,000 different items, including just about anything you can imagine that is large enough to have the five Olympic rings on it.

When you check out at the Megastore, there are 40 cash registers. You can pay with Brazilian Reals or with a Visa card. Nothing else. Visa, of course, is an Olympic sponsor.

Souvenirs in the official stores are quite pricey, but you can find illegal knock-offs in small shops and on the street at much lower prices. Everything available in the Superstores also is available on the streets here.

This year, the official merchandisers have changed their game. Besides producing the expensive items for sale in the Superstores, they also are producing their own line of knock-offs, available elsewhere in town for half the price, but often made of cheaper materials. By competing with the illegal knock-offs, the merchandisers are trying to corner the market.

There are a few Olympic items available on the streets that are not in the Superstores. The one that surprised us most was Olympic packets of cocaine.

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