Thursday, 26 July 2012

An Olympic Diet: Part Two

The first action of the London 2012 Olympic Games was the Woman’s Football, and the first game kicked off at 4pm yesterday at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. We were there for both matches: Team GB beating New Zealand 1-0 and Brazil beating Cameroon 5-0. The football played by the Brazilians was a joy to watch. There was a great atmosphere, and I could go on about all the positive things that happened. Unfortunately though, this is a Food Blog.

At the bar, the prominent taps were dispensing Olympic-sponsor beer products. So, looking for something to drink, we spotted some taps at the end labelled generically “ale” and “cider.” As non-sponsor products cannot be identified by name, lest it be deemed advertising, this seemed hopeful. We anticipated a pint of Brains, the beer that usually flows from these taps, produced by the brewery that is just a stones-throw from the Millennium Stadium. However, it was not to be. “Ale” is John Smiths (£4.10 pint) and “cider” is Strongbow (this will be the case at all Olympic venues). Alcoholic drinks could only be consumed in the bar area and not taken to the seats.

At the food outlet, things were dominated by Olympic-sponsor soft drink products. On the food menu where bacon baguette (£5.50), Steak pie, Cheese and onion pasty, noodles, soup, sandwiches, hot or cold wraps, crisps, sweets and Olympic-sponsor chocolates. Most of the food was in the £4 to £6 range.

There were big queues for the food between the two games. By the time we approached the food outlet at half-time of the second game, all the food had sold out. People were buying small tubs of official-sponsor crisps (£2) and sweets to keep them going.

So, it was a fantastic sporting event that was thoroughly enjoyed by all the family. The staff and stewards at the Millennium Stadium were very polite, helpful and efficient. However, the food and drink on offer was a little disappointing.

Meanwhile, local businesses in the vicinity of the Stadium who tried to benefit from any Olympic association were pulled up by Locog’s “Brand Police”, a continuation of the heavy-handed treatment of independent cafes and sandwich bars seen during the Torch Relay. Taste on the High Street, for instance, had to change the name of one of their sandwiches. Even Michael Payne, a former marketing director at the International Olympic Committee, has said over-zealous enforcement of brand protection risks damaging the Games image (see link below).

The tickets come with the written promise: “There’s a variety of healthy and tasty food for you inside the venue.” This covers all the venues and in particular the main London venues. Cardiff has whetted our appetite for our next Olympics experience, which will be in London. Will this prove more of a positive showcase for British food and drink products? We’ll see!

An Olympic Diet: Part One:

Independent article on Olympic brand-protection:

Taste, Cardiff:

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