x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Fans feel the pinch at the 'Rip Off Olympics'

The cost of food and drink combined with strict security regulations at the Olympic Games in London has seen many take to Twitter to voice their outrage.

Olympic visitors are being charged double the national average for food and drink at Games venues.

The cost of food and drink combined with strict security regulations that mean that spectators will inevitably be forced to use one of the food and drink concessions have seen many take to Twitter to voice their outrage at the, "Rip Off Olympics".

A bottle of water costs £1.60 (Dh9.2) when the same product can be picked up for 25p in local supermarkets.

Security regulations mean that no liquids over 100ml are allowed to be brought into the Games. As a result officials say the number of empty bottles being brought in has rocketed as return spectators, wise to the system, are bringing in empties which can be refilled for free at water fountains inside Games park.

Last week organisers were forced to build more water fountains at the Olympic Park to cope with the queues as vendors selling bottled water went ignored.

Meanwhile at Wimbledon, fans complained at the "Olympic premium," which saw a punnet of strawberries usually priced at £2.50 on sale for £3.50.

Catering the Games is a monumental task with organisers estimating that they will serve 14 million meals across 40 locations during the Games.

Olympic visitors can choose from 800 food concessions featuring more than 150 dishes. Fans can eat whatever they want: as long as it's British, bought in the venue and paid for in cash or on Visa as the only card accepted in venues is that of the official sponsor.

All soft drinks for sale within venues are supplied by Coca-Cola, including Innocent smoothies and juices, and 75 per cent of the drinks Coca-Cola expects to sell will be water, juice or sugar-free.

The only branded food available is McDonald's which has four outlets at Olympic venues and Cadbury's Nature Valley.

LOCOG Chief Executive Paul Deighton defended prices saying that they were, "comparable to other major sporting events." He said that a family of four should be able to buy food and drinks for under £40.

He added: "We have gone to great lengths to find top quality, tasty food that celebrates the best of Britain."

But fans at the Olympic Park yesterday were feeling the pinch. Max Lee, 37, from Shepherd's Bush said, "It cost me £29 for three baked potatoes and three drinks. I think that's excessive."

The queues brought complaints from some visitors. Marike Bol, 24, a teacher who had travelled from the Netherlands with her parents Gerard, 53 and Agnes, 54, and aunt Astrid van Vervalk, 56, said: "We had to queue for an hour to buy three coffees. The ticket only covers four hours so a quarter of the time was spent in a queue."

Fair-trade tea and coffee costs £2 a cup while a hot chocolate will set you back £2.30 and a sandwich such as a Steak Ciabatta costs an extraordinary £8.50 while a "Kid's Sausage Ciabatta," is £5.10. Lamb curry with rice costs £8.50, considerably more than many local takeaways.

Mother of three Clare Franklin, 52, from Nottingham said: "It does add a lot to the cost of the day. We've been really surprised. You buy a sandwich and that's pretty much a tenner [£10] gone.

"We didn't bring much with us because we were worried it would be confiscated at security."

Just what you can bring into the Games is a bit of a moot point. In a list of banned items including firearms, pepper spray, placards, tents, Frisbees, flick knives, strobe lights, vuvuzelas and "oversized hats," liquids over 100ml and "excessive food," is prohibited.

But what constitutes excessive? A couple of felafel wraps? A family size packet of crisps? A bunch of bananas? After all, one person's "excessive" is another's light snack.

According to spokesperson for LOGOC: "There are a couple of general principles. Food should be for personal use during the course of the sports event - so not a week's worth of shopping. And it shouldn't get in the way of other spectators - so no cool boxes, picnic hampers etc."

She added: "In the vast majority of cases spectators and security staff are being reasonable."

lcollins@thenational.ae