The growing tribe of hobbyists and hawkers at London 2012

 

Jawad Khan and Coca Cola Inc have little in common. The latter is a global corporation which last year had revenues of £29bn, while Mr Khan is an east London market stall holder with a nice line in polyester tracksuits. But what unites them is their fervent desire to benefit from being associated with the Olympic Games.

Mr Khan is one of several dozen traders in the Stratford Mall, a 1960s shopping centre on the edge of the Olympic Park and the poor relation to Westfield, the temple to high end mammon through which it is expected 70 per cent of those attending London 2012 will pass en route to the sporting extravaganza.

Only a small share of the five million people due to pass through the Olympic Park in the next fortnight will take the opportunity to visit the Stratford Mall, a sort of Olympian souk whose offerings include a flea market with a Christian Science reading room and a Lithuanian food store.

But that is not stopping its entrepreneurial tenants - and a growing tribe of hobbyists, hawkers and spivs gravitating around the epicentre of London 2012 - from emulating the grand corporate sponsors and trying to make a few quid out of the Olympics.

Ranging from a former stockbroker who has published a debut novel about a terrorist attack on the Olympics and is touting for sales on Amazon to enthusiasts who collect enamelled badges or "pins", a caravan of hawkers is attempting to navigate the ferociously-policed grey area between official merchandise and offerings which may be loosely described as Games-related souvenirs.

The Independent revealed earlier this month that the Olympic Delivery Authority has amassed a team of 286 enforcement officers who are touring the immediate vicinity of Games venues to crack down on any traders judged to be infringing strict trademark rules or peddling counterfeit goods.

Mr Khan, 26, is not concerned. He has been doing a roaring trade in his "London 2012" t-shirts which studiously avoid the replication of any Olympic symbols but, with their depictions of leaping sports stars, are clearly aimed at one event.

He said: “Business is good. Trade is up 30 to 40 per cent and we’ve planned for it. We ordered our stock four or five months ago and I don’t think they’ll be after us. We’ve been very careful. We’re for people who can’t afford the expensive official merchandise but want something to remember the event by. They’re only £5. This is what we’ve been waiting for. We’ll still be here long after people have lost interest in Westfield.”

While the core Olympic sponsors, who have paid the International Olympic Committee a total of £600m for the privilege of carrying the Five Rings on their merchandise, can expect a rise in their share price, this lower league of Olympian hustler have to work hard for every penny of profit.

David Albert, 61, spotted his London 2012 opportunity when he re-wrote his first novel – a thriller about a dastardly plot to thwart the discovery of a cure for cancer – to revolve around the Olympics. Business cards advertising the book – Chameleon 2012 – were being handed out to shoppers outside the Stratford Mall today.

Mr Albert, clearly a man with an eye for publicity, said: “I have been taken aback by the response, seeing as it’s my debut novel.

“We were recently told that Barack Obama has a copy. We got feedback from someone in the government. I was amazed.”

Others, however, are prepared to play a bit faster and looser with the Games’ marketing rules. A man who would only give his name as Gary was this week doing a rapid trade in “I saw the torch” flags as he followed the Olympic Flame relay through the capital.

Hiding his stock under his jacket as a police van went past, he said: “To be honest, I don’t know if it’s illegal or not, but I’m not taking any chances. They’re so bloody anal about all these rules. I’m only trying to make a few nicker and I’m not exactly in competition with Panasonic am I?”

Scotland Yard said today it was not providing a running commentary on the number of arrests related to Olympics trademark enforcement or petty crime. The ODA did not respond to a request for a comment.

Elsewhere, street hawkers of a different variety carry out a more genteel trade just feet from the security fences guarding the Olympic Park.

The Olympic “pin” – an enamelled metal badge commemorating any and every aspect of the Games – has become a significant part of the sporting extravaganza. Hundreds of thousands are swapped, bought and traded by enthusiasts who gather on the fringes of each Olympics.

Tim Jamieson, 64, an architect from Virginia, was among a line of pin traders gathered outside Stratford International station, with the blessing of the ODA. He said: “This is very much part of the Olympics. Some guys trade for money but most of us prefer to swap. It’s just a great hobby. We’re not here to make big profits.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker