Royal Mail has pleaded with the public to stop taking matters into their own hands by painting its postboxes in honour of Team GB’s medal winners.
The company spoke out as its initial gesture to colour postboxes gold in recognition of our Olympic winners looked in danger of spiralling out of control.
However, it appears it has a confused approach to the problem as today it allowed one ‘illegally’ painted box to remain gold.
Arrested: Rob Smith, 51, poses next to the postbox he painted gold in the Hampshire town where Olympic sailor Ben Ainslie lives. He was held by police on suspicion of criminal damage but then released
A post box in Lymington, Hampshire, where gold-medal sailor Ben Ainslie lives, was painted gold without the company’s authorisation.
Rob Smith, 54, was arrested but later released without charge and at the same time Royal Mail performed a U-turn and announced that the postbox would keep its new golden colour.
Another box, in Doddington, Lincolnshire, was painted bronze to congratulate the British women’s hockey team, who beat New Zealand in a third-place play-off.
A Royal Mail spokeswoman told the Guardian: ‘We understand the sentiment and congratulate the women’s hockey team on their achievement.
‘However, we’d rather people left the painting of postboxes to us. We are liaising with our engineers to ensure that it is repainted red as soon as possible.’
Mr Smith decided to paint the Lymington postbox in an apparent protest that Royal Mail had instead chosen to paint one gold in Cornwall, where Ainslie was brought up.
Mr Smith, who owns a bar and restaurant at Lymington Yacht Haven, described the climbdown as a victory for common sense.
He said: ‘I’m over the moon. It’s all I ever wanted for Ben, for Lymington, and everyone who has supported the campaign.
‘Thousands of people wanted the post box to be painted gold – I’m just the person who did it.
‘I’m so glad now it’s going to be done officially. I think the Royal Mail has been swayed by public opinion and has taken a very sensible decision.’
The four-time Olympic gold medallist has lived in the Hampshire coastal town for 12 years and is an honorary life member of the Royal Lymington Yacht Club.
Explaining it’s U-turn, a Royal Mail spokesman said: ‘There’s been a huge amount of interest in this.
‘We understand the depth of feeling involved as Ben is a local hero and sailing is very much part of the Lymington community. Ben loves the gold post box in Restronguet but would love to have one in Lymington as well and we’re happy to oblige.’
A Facebook campaign backing a golden postbox in Lymington attracted more than 1,700 supporters.
Ainslie also described Mr Smith as a ‘legend of Lymington’ for painting the box gold.
It was latest in a long line of incidents over the last fortnight.
Fans of Olympic bronze medal boxer Anthony Ogogo struck in his hometown of Lowestoft in Suffolk.
A painter touches up a postbox that had been vandalised after being painted gold by Royal Mail in Jessica Ennis’s home city of Sheffield to celebrate her Olympic triumph
Emblazoned with ‘Congratulations Ogogo! Olympic bronze medalist’, the fishing town’s first-ever Olympic bronze medalist is thrilled.
A postbox that was painted gold in Jessica Ennis’s home city to celebrate her Olympic triumph has also been vandalised.
And a pensioner who painted a postbox gold in honour of Olympic gold medalist Alistair Brownlee has branded Royal Mail ‘miserable’ after it quickly covered over his handiwork.
Peter Moran, 82, was inspired to pick up a paintbrush after watching his neighbours the Brownlee brothers secure the gold and bronze medals in the gruelling triathlon last Tuesday.