Wednesday 16 May 2012

Olympic shenanigans

I have very little interest in sport. I put that down partly to the way it was taught at school, where it was like an ordeal rather than a pleasure. I don't have a problem with other people enjoying sport, but I do hate hype in all its forms, and we are being subjected to a lot of pro-Olympic hype as the build-up to the damp squib of the century begins.

I am particularly incensed by the claim that the Olympics will be a showcase for the best of Britain. It will be the best in an X-Factor or Britain's Got Talent sort of way: they'll trot out a few stereotypes, although they'll call them "icons" (whatever that means), along with some superannuated pop stars and a couple of gullible current ones in an attempt to keep the "kidz" on board. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games ( LOCOG)'s invitation to Keith Moon was particularly crass, proving that, as those tasked with selecting what represents Britain, they really aren't up to the job.

As most people reading this blog will know, Britain is a country with distinctive brewing traditions that haven't been entirely swept away by the pseudo-pilsner beers that have taken over most of the world, and yet LOCOG has accepted a £10 million bribe from Heineken to have "sole pouring rights" for the Games. So the best of British will be represented in beer terms by a tenth-rate Dutch facsimile of a Czech beer.

The archery will be taking place at Lords cricket ground where the beer concession is held by Marston's. During the Olympics, the handpumps will be removed, and they're even covering up the portrait of cricketer Matthew Hoggard, Marston’s "beer ambassador". The only compromise there is that drinkers will be able to buy John Smith's Smooth under the name "British Bitter" while Strongbow will be called "Cider". Another missed opportunity, as there's a brewery in Wiltshire called Archers!

A Heineken spokesperson said that many venues are not suitable for cask beer as they are either temporary bars or lack the necessary cellar facilities, which is really quite feeble. CAMRA has been running real ale bars in such circumstances for decades, and there is an increasing number of commercial companies who specialise in temporary real ale bars: I've come across several at music festivals, and they work very well. It's just an excuse, of course: Heineken simply want to sell their own products, and as they've coughed up that £10 million sweetener, in a way I don't blame them. No, the real villain of the piece is the gaffe-prone LOCOG, which chose a single supplier of beer on the size of the bribe, rather than its degree of Britishness. But then, given how LOCOG has been profligate with our money - it's already spent nearly all of the contingency fund intended for emergencies - I suppose they needed every penny they could lay their hands on. Thinking about it, perhaps that is representative of modern Britain after all.


  1. This is an area beer geeks see through a beery prism. So what if Heineken have bought an exclusive concession? No ones making you drink it, and it's not the worst beer in the world if you do.

    What made me laugh was the association with Macdonalds, food of champions. Again not the worst thing but hardly the food of athletes.

    I think the more sinister aspect of sponsorship is the efforts they go to prevent guerilla marketing, chucking punters out for wearing the logos of rivals.

    So what if a sports stadium has one set of brands? You pong drinkers have no problem with regional brewers only selling their own brands in their own pubs.

    Can I complain about the crap food & crap food choices in most CAMRA beer festivals?

    The market has choice, and punters are not forced to eat or drink anything they do not want.

  2. Really, CL, is that the best you can do? State the obvious? Of course no one has to drink the stuff, but you haven't read the post properly if you think that's all I was on about, which is this: LOCOG claimed they want the Olympics to highlight Britain. So they do that by selling the beer franchise to Heineken? If you refuse to see the massive gap there between lofty aspiration and Mammon, then I can't be bothered to explain it to you.

    As for your comment "punters are not forced to eat or drink anything they do not want" - well, actually they are if they're really hungry or thirsty at a long event where there's nothing else available. But again, that's not the point. Your free market answer to any such criticisms - don't buy it if you don't want it - logically means that we should never complain about or criticise anything ever again. Which applies to you as well so, for example, stop calling real ale pong. If you don't like it, you know what to do: practice what you preach.

    Unlike you, I believe in the right to criticise, so as far as I'm concerned you can complain about the bad food in CAMRA beer festivals all you like. Did you expect me to be upset or defensive about that criticism?

    You've written, "the market has choice" - like the monopoly in the Olympic stadium, you mean? I'm afraid your sub-Thatcherite faith in the market's ability to meet all choices is nothing more than blinkered wishful thinking. And utterly irrelevant to this post.

  3. Nev,

    I think CL was just doing his "devils advocate" bit again, and both your original post, and your response were spot on-the Olympics is an extravagant irrelevance to most of the population in my opinion, and your point regarding the choice of Heineken as "official beer" or whatever the term is (brewery which was willing to pay most?) succinctly highlights the true nature of this "sporting event"-it's all about crass Capitalism.

  4. You're probably right, Mike. I expect I have risen to one of CL's well-placed baits.

  5. Spot on, Nev. The whole thing is an embarrassing farce that only pleases King Boris as far as I am concerned.


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