Simon Kelner: Is this the thin end of the corporate potato wedge?

Kelner's view

Share

It was a only a paragraph in yesterday's edition of i, and it appears to be a story of such little significance that, set aside global financial crisis, banking scandals and the departure of Chris Moyles from Radio 1, it is hardly worth drawing your attention to. The detail of the story is this: workers at the Olympic stadium have been granted dispensation to buy chips from a catering van.

There, I told you it wasn't an urgent piece of news. But beneath this rather trivial fact is a tale of such outrageous corporate hegemony and cultural imperialism that I feel it my duty to shine a torch, an Olympic torch even, on it. The reason the workers had a battle to get their chips was that the Olympics have been bought by McDonalds, and under the terms of their sponsorship deal no other food outlet at any of the 40 Games venues is allowed to sell chips. It's not enough that the biggest McDonalds in the world is being built in the Olympic Park: the small print of what the Games organisers call "sponsorship obligations" to the fast food giant means other caterers are not allowed to serve chips unless they come with other items.

The rule was relaxed to stop workmen building the stage for the opening ceremony downing tools, but it does seem to be the thin end of the potato wedge as far as corporate power is concerned. Chips with everything, but not with nothing. At last the deal allows visitors to the Games to sample traditional British accompaniments to their chips, like fish, or fried Mars Bars or curry. And they will be able to wash them down with a can of Coca-Cola or Heineken, two of the other main sponsors of the Games.

Those who have followed the Torch's progress through Britain will have noticed the dominant branding of Coca-Cola. I don't know whether those who lined the roads were prevented from drinking other types of fizzy drinks, but you can't help but question the wisdom of taking sponsorship money for a celebration of athletic achievement from companies whose products are not exactly consistent with fitness and health. As Jenny Jones, a Green Party representative on the London Assembly, put it, the Games will promote "a glut of sponsored messages for high calorie food and drink that are at odds with the Olympic ideal".

This is not a rant against the commercialisation of sport: that battle was won and lost a long time ago. This is simply to question whether we have ceded too much power to sponsors. Isn't it enough that McDonalds will sell millions of pounds' worth of fast food during the Games? Faster, Stronger, Higher? Fatter, Slower, Unhealthier might be more appropriate. And does anyone worry about the corporatisation of the Torch relay? Maybe it doesn't matter. And maybe, when the competition starts, it will all be about the athletes. In which case, disregard what I've just said. I've simply got a chip on my shoulder…

 

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Ashdown Group: Senior .Net Developer - Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A long-established, technology rich ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Women are less likely to become scientists and engineers  

International Women's Day: How much could be achieved if we scrapped the idea of 'male' jobs?

Anne Richards
Dame Maggie Smith stars in Downtown Abbey as Countess Violet  

We need to see Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon on stage again

David Lister
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable