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McDonald's food brand monopoly at London Olympics not set in stone

13 August 2009 by

If last weekend's Observer is to be believed, the golden arches of McDonald's will loom large over participating venues in the 2012 London Olympic Games.

The newspaper reported that the fast food chain, one of the games' main sponsors, is in talks with the Olympic committee and looks likely to be named the sole branded food retailer visible at the venues. Such a deal would leave other food operators only able to sell their products in unbranded packaging.

The revelation has prompted an outcry from those who believe the food offering at the games should reflect our nation's cultural and culinary diversity. But is their outrage realistic?

Without doubt, the nation needs to take full advantage of the opportunities the games offer, and this includes providing a food offering that showcases the multicultural textures our country offers. On the other hand, shouldn't big-ticket sponsors helping to make the games a reality feel entitled to favourable exposure?

There's also the small matter of logistics. "When you are feeding 12 million meals in 28 days, you've got to do it in a practical, as well as an aspirational, way," says David Russell of the Russell Partnership, the consultancy tasked with pulling together the catering strategy for the 2012 games.

Reassuringly, Russell says his team is working with incumbent caterers at existing venues to find solutions; and he points to the fact that previous games have not been dominated by a solus caterer. Nevertheless supposition is sure to continue until the games' official catering strategy is published, later this summer.

We await this strategy with interest. If sense prevails, it will reflect the games' stated aims of high quality, affordability and diversity. But if the strategy does not allow UK food operators to present a true and comprehensive picture of our country and our culture, our regional produce and our ethnic diversity, to the world, an opportunity will have been missed.

By Mark Lewis

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