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How we made London2012 the most ethical Olympics so far

Issue date

End of project report

October 2012

This document reports on the three-year Playfair2012 project and campaign which concluded when the London Olympics and Paralympic Games ended this summer.

Mostly funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) through the Programme Partnership Arrangement they used to have with the TUC, the campaign brought together the TUC and Labour Behind the Label (LBL), together with many affiliated unions and other campaigning NGOs. The overall objective was 'raised worker and student awareness of the interdependence of global sportswear supply chains and their power to effect change as consumers strengthens the efforts of ethical suppliers and workers in the developing world to alleviate their poverty.' A full set of the original campaign outcomes, indicators and activities is included in the document. The campaign in the UK was part of the global Play Fair Alliance which brings together the ITUC, global union federations and the Clean Clothes Campaign (of which LBL is the UK branch.)

Much fuller information on the project and campaign (this document covers mostly the activities carried out and the results of the work as well as some key lessons learned and changes made during the campaign) will be published on the TUC website in the next few weeks, and the TUC will commission a special campaign report for publication. An independent impact study has been commissioned and will be published on the TUC website and considered, along with future plans and this report, by a special meeting of the TUC International Development Group in the New Year. The international Play Fair Alliance, which is meeting in Brussels on 9 October, will be taking those lessons forward for future work.

Over the three years of the campaign, we managed to deliver the most ethical Olympics ever, with real advances in the open-ness and worker-friendly nature of the supply chains involved. The campaign achieved significant media coverage and widespread support in the trade union movement, and its impact registered with the organisers of the games as well as - though to a more limited extent, the IOC and the Government. Lessons learned in the campaign have been and will be passed on to trade union movements in countries holding similar events, principally Brazil with the World Cup and Olympics/Paralympic Games.

However, workers in the supply chains for global sporting events continue to face exploitation and disrespect: London 2012 may have gone further than any previous world sporting event, but they did not go far enough, and many of the breakthroughs the campaign made were too late to have the impact we would have wanted. The International Olympic Committee, in particular, has not yet embraced the points made in the campaign about ethical trade and global supply chains.

Although many people contributed enormously to the success of the campaign, principal responsibility for its success rests with the project officer, Sharon Sukhram. Special thanks are due to her for all her work on the project and campaign.

Original Purpose: Raised UK worker and student awareness of the interdependence of global sportswear supply chains and their power to effect change as consumers strengthens the efforts of ethical suppliers and workers in the developing world to alleviate their poverty.
50% direct and 5% indirect project beneficiaries aware of and taking action on ethical trade issues by end of project.
5 companies supplying Olympic branded goods commit to engaging with multi-stakeholder initiatives to improve labour standards in their supply chains by end of project.

In the final Playfair 2012 survey, 83% of direct beneficiaries (workers/trade union members and students) and 83% of non-direct beneficiaries (wider public) reported that Playfair 2012 had increased their knowledge about working conditions in global supply chains, particularly sportswear and Olympic supply chains. 62% of direct beneficiaries, and 83% of non-direct beneficiaries took a Playfair 2012 public action calling on major sportswear brands and/or the International Olympic Committee to do more to ensure that the rights of workers in their global supply chains are respected (see Outcome 1 for details). These findings indicate that the project achieved its original purpose.

The indicator relating to securing the commitment of five companies to engaging with multi-stakeholder initiatives was amended to encourage them to deepen their engagement when it was realised that nearly all of the companies the project was highlighting were already engaged, to varying degrees, with bodies such as the Ethical Trading Initiative and the Fair Labour Association.

Prior to the publication of the Playfair supported report Toying with workers' rights, LOCOG signed an agreement with the TUC in February 2012. This led LOCOG to publicly disclose 72% of their remaining suppliers' factory locations, thereby opening up the supply chain to public scrutiny and greater accountability. Rights-based educational materials for Chinese workers were developed by LOCOG, and the TUC and LBL provided feedback on content (information on numbers distributed was requested, but not supplied by LOCOG). The TUC is still in dialogue with London 2012 regarding the development of a pilot training project for workers about their rights in China, which will involve working with at least three Olympic licensees. The agreement commits London 2012 to working with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the organisers of Rio 2016 to try to ensure that progress made in London is built on for future Games. Based on information in Toying with workers' rights, LOCOG initiated a formal complaint and requested licensee, Honav, to work with its supplier to develop a corrective action plan to improve factory conditions.

Playfair engaged with Adidas, Nike, Pentland (Speedo) and Next on improving working conditions during the project. Dialogue with Next will be ongoing after the project, and for Adidas, Nike and Pentland - this will continue with the international Play Fair Alliance.

Playfair submitted formal complaints to London 2012 regarding violations of workers' rights in the production of Adidas-London 2012 goods in China and the Philippines, based on evidence in our report Fair Games? Human rights of workers in Olympic 2012 supplier factories.

In the Philippines this led to in-country dialogue which is ongoing - a public communiqué will be issued once the process is complete. The Playfair complaint catalysed a wider multi-stakeholder process which resulted in the signing of a cooperation agreement between brands Adidas, Brooks Running and New Balance, national and global trade unions, suppliers, NGOs, and the Filipino government - regarding respecting national laws and freedom of association.

For China, following negotiations, Adidas agreed to take remedial actions to improve working conditions in the factory investigated. Monitoring progress will continue with the TUC. A final communiqué will be issued at the end of this process.

Media attention on progress made by Playfair and reporting on company engagement has also helped with continuing to raise awareness, and in reinforcing the value of taking consumer actions on ethical trade.

Outcome 1: Project beneficiaries understand the interconnectedness and impact of global supply chains on workers in developing countries and their ability to affect positive change.
By end of project at 25% more project beneficiaries understand and act on project issues compared with 2009 baseline.
10% annual increase in downloads of materials from project website

Survey results: in addition to the information mentioned above, by the end of the project, 20% more direct beneficiaries reported high levels of awareness about the project issues (43% compared to 23% at baseline), and only 8% reported low levels of awareness compared to 18% at baseline. This reflects increased levels of awareness reported as a result of the project. For indirect beneficiaries, 100% reported average levels of awareness at the start of the project - this was 33% by the end of the project, with 42% reporting high levels of awareness. At baseline, 71% of direct beneficiaries, and 67% of indirect beneficiaries reported that the working conditions of people making the product were important or very important to them. By the end of the project, this had increased to 86% and 92% respectively (176 people responded to the baseline survey - 170 were trade unionists, workers and/or students; 6 were indirect beneficiaries.)

The project has run four public actions calling on major brands and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to improve their ethical practices with regard to respecting workers' rights in global supply chains.

  • 3,843 people took the online/card Playfair action 'Let's make it a fair Games'. And 2,121 took the online action, 'Make it a fair Games' after the Fair Games? report was published. These actions focussed on major sportswear brands. Feedback from the international Play Fair Alliance has been that the public actions focussing on companies, run by Playfair 2012, have helped keep companies at the negotiating table on ethical trade issues (see Outcome 5). The project and campaign have also led to strengthened dialogue with companies at UK level.
  • The action, 'Sign on to respect rights of Indonesian garment workers' was taken by 1,268 people online. This called on Next, Gap, Polo Ralph Lauren, Columbia Sportswear, Lotto and Mizuno to sign onto the protocol on freedom of association negotiated in Indonesia (see Outcome 5). Although these brands have not yet signed up to the protocol, work is still underway in the international Play Fair Alliance to encourage them to do so.
  • The action 'Light the flame for workers' human rights' aimed at the IOC, was taken by 5,064 people via email, petitions and action torches. This action coupled with ongoing engagement with LOCOG has helped ensure a stronger legacy in terms of LOCOG sharing learning with Rio 2016 and the IOC on protecting workers' rights in global supply chains.

Downloads: The analytics available for the Playfair site meant that it was not possible to view downloads. In addition, Playfair materials (leaflets, posters, stickers) were designed to be viewed in print form for distribution at events that would be attended by UK workers and students (direct beneficiaries), rather than downloaded. The web pages for the report Toying with workers' rights (hosted via the ITUC site) were viewed by 244 (English); 65 (French); 131 (Spanish); and 48 (German), (see Outcome 6 for more about the website).

Playfair materials have been distributed at over 130 events and festivals. At least 235 articles covering global supply chains and Playfair 2012 have been carried in member magazines, online and in newsletters by supporting organisations: Anti-Slavery International, ASLEF, ATL, BECTU, Community, CSP, CWU, GMB, ITGLWF/IndustriALL, Labour Behind the Label, NASUWT, NUJ, NUS, NUT, PCS, Prospect, RCN London, UNISON, Unite, Usdaw, STUC, TUC, and War on Want - potentially raising awareness among hundreds of thousands of members/ supporters.

Tutor training pack (an existing TUC resource on supply chains): This was updated towards the end of the project so that the information used could draw on recent Playfair-supported research relating to London 2012.

Learning/changes to activities

Indicators: The indicator for this outcome refers to 25%, while the original purpose states 50% on a similar theme. In future, there needs to be greater clarity on indicators to avoid confusion.

Actions: actions/ways for people to make a difference could have been improved by having more different actions available in different formats, and promoting existing actions more widely. A Light the flame action pack was produced to encourage local actions to raise awareness about working conditions in supply chains - and we are aware of actions that were organised in Dublin, London, Newcastle and Bedford. Feedback was that it was difficult to mobilise people to get involved in addition to mobilisations around cuts to public services and job losses.

Materials: The original estimate for materials to be distributed, 80,000 leaflets, was overly ambitious; in the end, approx 30,500 of 32,000 leaflets produced were distributed. Although materials were widely distributed a number of union/student events, not all Playfair partners provided the platform for this to happen at their major events - this would have helped to boost the numbers distributed.

Speaker tours: the proposal to organise eight speaker tours with international guest speakers was also ambitious and based on unions taking responsibility for organising short tours themselves; this target was revised to hold three tours which were centrally organised and where Playfair coordinators worked with organisations to organise several joint events. This required more of the coordinators' time, and therefore fewer tours were organised. The latter approach worked well, therefore in future, fewer tours could be proposed with more focus on joint working.

Seminars and workshop series: based on experience, it was recognised that organising stand-alone events on a single issue like Playfair may not return numbers in attendance, relative to the cost and staff time involved in organising the event. Therefore, the TUC's project officer worked with TUC regional offices and committees, unions and supporting organisations to facilitate presentation by others/speak at planned meetings, events and fringes. Instead of having two seminars with six unions, the approach taken enabled Playfair to reach members of at least 31 TUC affiliated unions, and RCN London, at around 19 events.

DVD production: rather than producing one DVD for branch meetings, which can quickly go out of date, project coordinators worked with producers to make six short films, which were uploaded to YouTube and promoted by Playfair partners:

Online sports supply chain quiz: the PDF and PPT formats of the quiz, combined with the website software, meant that statistics on the number of people who had played the online quiz could not be obtained or where they could be, that this would be expensive. In future, greater consideration should be given to quiz design and options for capturing statistics.

Outcome 2: UK unions, industrially-related to textile workers in the developing world, better understand the challenges facing such workers and show practical support.
8 branches of industrially-related unions have active twinning relationships with textile worker union branches in developing world by end of project

The TUC worked with UK unions Community, Unite and GMB to raise awareness among their members of the issues facing garment workers in developing countries. At a joint Community-TUC event, Community members and former garment workers in the UK were able to increase their knowledge about these issues as a result of meeting trade unionist and former garment worker Lilis Mahmudah from Indonesia. As a result of this meeting, in October 2010, former garment worker and Community member, Brenda Clark, spoke at the TUC's World Day for Decent Work event in support of Playfair 2012, and encouraged others to get involved in the project and campaign. In June 2011, Community passed a motion in support of Playfair at their National Conference. Through visits to UK factories, organised by Community and GMB, trade union reps were also able to increase their understanding of the issues and exchange information about industry practices, learning and best practice when they met with guest speakers from developing countries.

In March 2011, Diana Holland, Deputy General Secretary, Unite, gave a speech to TUC's Women's Conference about Playfair - mobilising over 270 women to take a Playfair action calling on major sportswear brands to respect workers' rights.

Learning/changes to activities

It was agreed with Community, GMB and Unite that the proposed additional 'supply chain pamphlet' was not needed for their members, and that the existing Playfair leaflet communicated information about global supply chains and the issues faced by workers, sufficiently.

The indicator of eight branches twinning was reviewed and a decision not to proceed was made after looking at the potential risks and challenges. Specifically these related to: limited staff capacity at the TUC to help initiate and support twinning relationships, managing twinning through third parties, possible language barriers and limited access to ICT. Resources were not dedicated to trying to sustain relationships after the speaker tours for these reasons (neither Lilis nor Nirosha spoke English, and this would have presented a resource challenge for the organisations involved).

The decision not to proceed with this activity enabled staff time to be dedicated to the research, with which greater gains were made with London 2012 and companies. This focus also enabled beneficiaries to receive up-to-date information about working conditions in London 2012 supply chains.

Outcome 3: Teachers have the knowledge, skills, materials and opportunities to raise project issues in their classrooms.
30 teachers use project materials in the classroom by end of project
2000 students complete the online supply chain quiz/game

Step into her trainers - a pack of teaching resources aimed at raising awareness of the interdependence of global sportswear supply chains among KS5 and A-level students, was released in May 2011. Approximately 680 packs were provided directly to teachers through training seminars and mailings, and around 1,000 copies have been downloaded (573 since being updated in December 2011.) This resource has been promoted through the Development Education Authority:

In addition, an interactive cross-curriculum teaching pack for pupils aged 9-14 years, Fair's Fair - life and rights in the global sports industry, was launched on World Day for Decent Work (7 October) 2011. Through Anti-Slavery International, ATL, NASUWT and NUT, who were involved in developing Fair's Fair, the pack has been distributed directly to 1,939 teachers. A further 1,470 from a total 5,000 have been distributed to a combination of teachers, teacher training centres, and at events/festivals, by the TUC and supporting Playfair partners. 3,206 people have visited the Fair's Fair web pages. Remaining packs will continue to be distributed after the project finishes. Attempts to monitor pack use in the classroom through a questionnaire in the pack and an online survey promoted by all organisations involved produced a very limited response.

The project has provided at least 2,619 teachers with the knowledge, skills and materials to raise issues about global supply chains in their classrooms. Anecdotal reports from the NUT indicate that teachers have found Fair's Fair to be a highly useful resource.

The online game - 'The Unfair Factory' - was launched in May 2010. It provides an interactive way for students to learn about working conditions and the key issues for workers. By the end of the project, the game page had 19,363 unique visitors, staying an average of 6 minutes. 'The Unfair Factory' was promoted in Step into her Trainers, Fair's Fair and on the Development Education Association resource site Think Global:

Learning/changes to activities

The steering group for Fair's Fair (Anti-Slavery International, ATL, NASUWT, NUT) agreed that teacher training sessions and a supply chain leaflet for teachers would not be needed, and that existing leaflets and promotional materials could be used instead. It was also decided that the existing online game could be referenced in the pack, rather than developing a quiz, and that the budget remaining from these activities would be used to produce a DVD for the pack.

Print quantities for the Fair's Fair pack were decided by the steering group, and mechanisms for distribution discussed in the early stages. The TUC and NUT allocated resources for this work. For other organisations, the prevailing political and economic context and capacity constraints meant that distribution was a challenge. Although Fair's Fair will continue to be distributed after the project finishes, in future more realistic assessments are needed about the context and capacity for distribution.

Mechanisms for recording visitor numbers using the 'Unfair Factory' game needed to be thought out more clearly. Numbers of players taking action using the built in game mechanism could not be measured. In future, monitoring needs to be considered as a vital element of development.

Outcome 4: Increase in accurate and solution-focused media reporting on project issues.
At least one item in national and local media touching on project purpose per month on average
At least ten pieces in national and local media profiling visiting textile worker by end of project

Playfair 2012 and articles about working conditions in sportswear and Olympic supply chains have been covered in print and online media, video and national radio on 28 occasions. This coverage has come about through LBL and the TUC working directly with journalists. Stories were carried in, for example, The Independent, The Telegraph, The Mail online, The Express, and on the BBC website. Playfair saw a big increase in media coverage in 2012, following the release of two research reports and following the signing of the agreement with LOCOG.

Learning/changes to activities

The project did not manage to gain one item of coverage per month on average. Coverage depended on something being newsworthy. This indicator does not reflect that reality. Having a target number overall would have been more achievable. Greater staff capacity would have been needed in the TUC press office to promote Playfair more.

Disappointingly no coverage was obtained profiling visiting speakers. This was partly because they needed interpretation. Although Playfair was prepared to supply this, language was a barrier to gaining media coverage. The indicator chosen did not reflect this reality. The lack of coverage also reflected the reduced opportunity to get media caused by reducing the number of planned speaker tours from 8 to 3. The original target of 10 articles in local and national media was based on securing one piece of regional media coverage per tour and 2 national level stories. In addition, a speaker tour is not a media hook in itself, and the indicator did not reflect this.

It was agreed at the start of the project with the NUJ that briefings for journalists would not be needed, and that the research reports and executive summaries with current information about London 2012 supply chains would be shared with the NUJ when these were published. This has been done. It was also agreed that briefings would not be the best way to reach members, and talks at branch meetings would be a better option. Unfortunately, these have not taken place due to limited staff capacity.

Outcome 5: Increased number of universities and student sports federations support ethical procurement for sportswear.
10 campus groups formed and adopting or improving sportswear procurement policies by end of project

By the end of the project, nine campus groups had been set up, from a baseline of zero. Six universities around the UK are now signed up to the US-based Workers' Rights Consortium (WRC). NUS Services, which supplies a majority of university student unions in the UK, has also affiliated. This has been achieved through a combination of activity by the student network People & Planet's 'Buy Right Campaign', and the Playfair 2012 campaign. For example, as a result of a Playfair and People & Planet workers' rights training day at Birmingham Guild of Students, the Guild passed a motion to affiliate to the WRC, and formed a group to lobby the university Vice Chancellor to address ethical procurement.

Learning/changes to activities

Rather than form new campus groups, Playfair worked alongside existing organisations to deliver on this objective. LBL worked collaboratively with the student network People & Planet to develop the 'Buy Right Campaign' strategy, and wrote an input paper for the network ( recommending that P&P engage with WRC and develop something similar here in the UK. P&P's subsequent 'Buy Right Campaign' mobilised many student groups to engage on the issues that the Playfair project was hoping to promote in student networks. They also produced policy guides and materials to support this mobilisation, which Playfair decided not to duplicate, as there was no need.

Feedback from NUS was that to engage more students, incentives needed to be offered, due to student activists having many campaigns promoted to them at any one time. More effort could have been made in this area, such as offering prizes or unique opportunities in return for campaign engagement.

Engagement with NUS itself proved difficult due to annual change of student officers. Ideas such as beer mats and London events were worked up with certain students, and then lost due to new students being elected. Playfair took a strategy of engaging with long term staff members after a few projects failed to materialise, but these officers had less direct engagement with student unions and campaigns were fed out to students in a limited way. Feedback from NUS was that a combination of engagement with elected officers and NUS support staff would have proved more effective.

The strategy of engaging with People & Planet meant that although campus groups pursued ethical procurement from universities, direct links between Playfair and groups in universities were built only in a limited way. This could have been managed differently.

Outcome 6: Increased effectiveness of partner organisations - both nationally and globally- through capacity building, strengthened communication and coordination, and sharing of best practice and lessons learned.
At least four unions pass motions providing practical support to project purpose by end of project.
50 Tutors and 20 Education officers briefed on key issues.
Two conferences held.
Final report produced and disseminated.

The Playfair project helped strengthen organisations' work on global supply chains by providing the opportunity for joint working, resources on the issues, and support from the coordinators. The joint campaign and steering group strengthened communication between organisations working on these and related issues, and enabled sharing of learning and best practice.

Motions: Three conference motions were passed during the course of the project. The CSP put a motion in support of Playfair to TUC Congress in September 2011, which was seconded by Prospect and passed unanimously, making support for Playfair 2012 official policy. Prospect passed a motion in support of Playfair 2012 at their Women's Conference in 2011. This was linked to women and trafficking. Community also passed a motion in support of Playfair 2012 at their national conference in June 2011.

DECs: Workshops were held on this resource to train educators at Reading Development Education Centre (RISC); South Gloucestershire teachers conference; and 2 sessions were held for PGCE citizenship teachers at Bristol university. In total, 92 development education workers were trained. Although workshops were offered via personal contact, three online communications to DECs around the country, and via the DEA newsletter, there was very little take up of this offer due to limited DEC capacity. So the goal was not reached.

The Playfair 2012 website/social networking was launched on 26 February 2009 and by the end of the project had had 61,654 unique visitors, with 168,759 page views. The website has been linked to the sites of at least 18 supporting trade unions and campaigning organisations and promoted to members. A Playfair Facebook page has been created, which has 627 likes - this has been used to promote events and highlight related news The Playfair Twitter account!/playfair2012 has 443 followers and is linked to a newsfeed from the Playfair website. Playfair tweets were regularly retweeted by TUC Global to 2,500 followers, and by Playfair partners. Photos of events and actions are also posted on the Playfair flickr page

International partnerships: national Playfair project activities and outcomes were coordinated with the international Play Fair Alliance to ensure maximum impact when engaging with companies and mobilising people to take public actions. In September 2010, the TUC and ITUC met with a representative of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA) to share information, learning and best practice in preparation for the Brazil World Cup in 2014 and the Rio Olympics in 2016. Playfair Brazil was launched in March 2011, and information sharing with Brazilian trade union colleagues continues through the international campaign.

As a result of work by the international Play Fair Alliance an historic agreement was signed between major brands, Adidas, Nike, Pentland, Asics, New Balance and Puma, Indonesian unions and employer in June 2011 (see Outcome 1). News of this agreement has helped boost Playfair's work by demonstrating to beneficiaries the progress that can be made.

The Playfair website news pages carry related stories from international partner organisations, for example:

  • Launch of Play Fair in Brazil (ITUC)
  • Use of child labour in the Commonwealth Games (Building and Woodworkers International)
  • An overview of working conditions in sportswear factories in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines (ITGLWF)

Eight Clean Clothes Campaign meetings and conference calls have coordinated activists in 12 countries to network around Playfair. The TUC also worked with the Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Trade Union, Sri Lanka (FTZ&GSEU) and the ITGLWF to run an organising project for sportswear workers. Information from the project about working conditions in supply chains and interviews with workers was used to raise awareness amongst people in the UK and encourage actions to effect change.

In addition, the TUC supported a project with the ITGLWF to train factory level reps following the signing of the protocol on freedom of association in Indonesia. The project helped increase understanding of international labour standards, brands' codes of conduct and complaint mechanisms which can be used to support their activities.

Learning/changes to activities

Newsletter: rather than producing a quarterly newsletter, weekly updates were sent to the 611 people who had signed up to receive these by the end of the project. Regular Playfair updates were included in the TUC's International Development Matters (a monthly e-bulletin with approximately 5,000 subscribers.)

TUC tutor briefings: following discussions with colleagues in Unionlearn, a decision was taken that tutor briefings would not be needed. Instead, the updated Playfair fact file (and other files) will be consulted on with TUC tutors, to ensure that the content and approach are suited to tutors' needs.

Union leadership/activist training: union leaderships have been informed and updated about Playfair 2012 by union staff, and also through the TUC's General Council and Executive Committee. Therefore training was not seen to be necessary. General Secretaries and members of the General Council receive TUC Mail which has included Playfair updates on seven occasions. Ten union General Secretaries took part in an action prior to the Playfair 2012 meeting with the IOC in April 2011. At the General Council meeting in February 2011, attended by Lord Coe and Paul Deighton (CEO LOCOG), four members raised the issue of respecting workers' rights in sportswear and Olympic supply chains, and in particular, transparency in LOCOG's supply chain, and training for workers on their rights and using the complaints mechanism, indicating a high level of awareness about the project and the issues.

Conferences: an international delegation, rather than a conference, for the Playfair Brazil campaign was organised and delegates invited to the UK by Playfair 2012, in December 2011. The delegation consisted of representatives from three major Brazilian trade union federations, the ITUC and the ITUC's regional office in the Americas (TUCA). Delegates met with Playfair 2012 project coordinators and steering group members, TUC colleagues and unions working on London 2012, representatives from London 2012 (both LOCOG and the ODA), the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, and the London Assembly, and visited the Olympic Park site. Feedback at the end of the delegation was that the visit had been very useful, and that they would be stepping up their efforts to meet with the organisers of Rio 2016, drawing on Playfair's experience in taking their work forward.

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