Retailers mark the Olympics without mentioning them.

Under starter’s orders. Away from the blocks. Crossing the line. They’re all phrases which imply one thing: competitive sport. And none of them are being used by retailers in the run-up to the start of the 2012 Olympics at the end of this week.

They might as well be however, for in spite of all of LOCOG’s best efforts to prevent companies that are not Olympic sponsors from referring to the games, ways of indicating that something big’s going down are everywhere. To instance just a few of these along Regent Street, Guess has the line in its window “Be bold and get the gold”, Masimmo Dutti is “Celebrating the games”, while “Tommy Hilfiger would like to wish everyone the best of luck!” And where words won’t do, Juicy Couture opts for a bevy of synchronised swimmer mannequins in formation sporting Union Jack bikini bottoms with white t-shirts bearing the legend “Choose Juicy” picked out in gold.

Even the most unlikely candidates for a sporting link have managed to pull something out of the bag. The Bose store window features a cardboard cutout couple sitting on a sofa with a hurdler about to leap over their sofa and the strapline: “How close can you get?”

The answer to the latter seems to be that as long as you don’t put rings in a particular combination or, God forbid, mention the word Olympics (unless you happen to be John Lewis, Omega, Adidas, McDonalds and a few others), then you can get very close to the stadium. Indeed, on Saturday, shops along Regent Street that did not make some kind of oblique reference to the Olympics were the exception that proved the rule.

LOCOG’s rulings had the potential to turn something that should be the occasion for mass celebration into a fairly joyless affair. Fortunately, when it comes to retail, those that have not stumped up and become sponsors have nonetheless figured out a multiplicity of ways to get in on the act and high streets look the better for it.

When the UK won the right to stage the 2012 Olympics a few years ago, there can have been few that would have imagined the Thought Police-like nature of what was to follow, but in the end the edicts been subverted and retailers look set for a sprint to the finish. And as for the Games, well they might even be fun as well.