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

Kelner's view


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: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas