Olympic Tires?

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Salt Lake City, UT, Jan. 8, 2002 (by Rich Volsepka)--Interlocking tires on a highway billboard look too much like the Olympic rings and are unfairly taking profits from the games, the U.S. Olympic Committee said in a lawsuit.

The billboards, along Interstate 15 near Salt Lake City, show five car tires arranged like the multicolored Olympic symbol.

The Discount Tire Co. sign says ``welcome'' in various languages. The company is not an official games sponsor.

The USOC suit, filed in federal court Monday, alleges the tire store is trying to trick customers into thinking it is affiliated with the Olympic committee.

``Discount Tire's actions not only deceive the public, but also are irreparably harming the USOC,'' the lawsuit says. The committee is asking the court to award it three times the amount that the tire company has made by using the rings in its advertisements.

USOC officials say they don't know how much money that might be.

James Silhasek, identified in court papers as Discount Tire's executive vice president, did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press.

In a letter filed along with the lawsuit, Silhasek wrote to the USOC that he was making arrangements to have the billboards removed by Jan. 4.

But the USOC claims at least one of the billboards is still up, visible to ``thousands of motorists every day.''

The letter from Discount Tire said the company does not admit to any wrongdoing.