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Supply issues cause ‘chaos’ for Olympic catering

By Anne Bruce , 03-Aug-2012
Last updated on 03-Aug-2012 at 14:23 GMT2012-08-03T14:23:10Z

The Olympics: 'the world's largest peace-time catering event'
The Olympics: 'the world's largest peace-time catering event'

Operational issues have caused chaos in the mammoth catering operations at the London Olympic games.

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) expects over 14M meals to be served during the Games, across 40 locations. It also claimed that the Games were the largest peace-time catering operation in the world.

But suppliers have reported that the logistics of anything from recruiting staff to arranging deliveries have been fraught with difficulties.

Anecdotes fit for urban legends include a fish and chip outlet at one venue which ran out of fish and was not allowed to sell chips on their own because McDonald’s as the key Olympic food sponsor has the monopoly on selling chips at games venues.

Long queues

Spectators have also complained of long queues, including a half-hour wait for sandwiches at the Olympic rowing event at Dorney Lake in Eton, poor availability, long queues and badly trained catering staff.

A catering source told there were problems with oversupply as well as running out of stock. He said: “Numbers are way off estimates as the cost of beverages and food has affected visitors' spend, and visitors are budgeting heavily. Crowd control has been silly in places. At Greenwich, crowds were cordoned off or corralled away from many event caterers' kiosks.”

Companies that reduced supplies into their sites to control waste have run out of stock. He said: “The problem is really that all supplies had to pre-ordered and no emergency back-up supplies can be delivered due to security restrictions or pre-arranged delivery windows (mostly scheduled between 1am-5am).”

London 2012 sponsors Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Cadbury, Nature Valley and Heineken provide the only branded products on sale at Games venues.

Failed transactions

Only Visa credit cards can be used for card transactions, which has resulted in queues and failed transactions for non-Visa card holders.

Because of these sponsorship deals, other suppliers cannot sell certain items such as burgers (which were redesignated ‘rissoles’ at the beach volleyball). And operators have had to remove all brand packaging including international brands such as Subway. All Pepsi products have been removed.

All soft drinks and mineral water is provided by Coca-Cola, including Innocent smoothies and juices.

Catering giant Sodexo recruited 4,000 staff for the Olympics. It covers venues including the Olympic Park in Stratford, Hampden Park, St James Park, the Royal Artillery Barracks and Lord’s cricket ground.

McDonald’s operates at four Olympic venue restaurants: one in the Athletes’ Village, another for the media in the Main Press Centre and two in the Olympic Park for spectators.



SAMPLE SPECTATOR MENU (Information supplied by LOCOG)

  • Toasted tea cakes, with Yorkshire butter – £2.10
  • Jacket potato with Dingley Dell bacon and Freedom Foods chicken in a herb mayonnaise, served with rocket and watercress salad – £5.80
  • Penne pasta Red Tractor chicken and mushroom white sauce – £6.50
  • Thin crust stone baked 10" pizza with spicy pepperoni, spicy beef, basil and oregano – £7.50
  • Cod and chips – from £8
  • Bottled water – £1.60
  • Fairtrade Tea – from £2.00
  • Fairtrade Coffee – from £2.60
  • 500ml bottle of Coca-Cola – £2.30
  • 330ml bottle of Heineken – £4.20
  • London 2012 red wine 18.7cl – £4.80