“It will be £2, sir”, says a guard politely but firmly as he bars a customer from approaching a window overlooking the Olympic Park.
A leading British store is charging its customers £2 for the privilege of enjoying what it describes as “panoramic views of the London 2012 park” from a third-floor balcony which it has grandly renamed “viewing gallery”.
The move has left customers fuming.
“I didn’t expect to be paying for it”, said one man accusing the store of making a “mockery” of Olympic spirit.
The store, which takes pride in “never knowingly” underselling, said the charge was meant to “manage the crowds”. “This is something we’ve introduced from a need to manage the crowds,” said a spokesperson amid a growing row over the commercialisation of the London Games.
The official zeal to protect the commercial interests of Olympic sponsors has caused fury and spawned jokes about “Talibanisation” of the Games. The latest wheeze is a ban on using any other WiFi hot spot in the Olympic arena except those set up by British Telecom (BT), the “official communications services provider” for the Games. The ban extends to creating a wireless hotspot on personal smartphones and using portable WiFi hotspot devices.
Teams of officials, dubbed the “WiFi” police, are hunting down “unauthorised” networks and shutting them down. And they are not the only ones. Overzealous Olympic inspectors are on a rampage ticking off people and handing out fines to enforce sponsorship rules.
Under the terms of multi-million dollar deals with companies such as Visa, Proctor& Gamble, Coca-Cola, Adidas, McDonald’s and BP, non-official products — including food and drinks — are banned from Olympic sites. Visitors are not allowed to wear anything with logos of companies not sponsoring the Games. Journalists have had logos on their Apple and Dell computers covered.
Bizarrely, fish and chip stalls have been prevented from selling chips without fish as McDonald’s is the official chips maker of the Games.
There is a ban on using Olympic rings even as a mark of support for the Games. Old ladies trying to get into the spirit of the Games by decorating cakes with Olympic rings have been told to remove them. A young florist, who put up Olympic rings made of tissue paper in her shop window was threatened with legal action and forced to take them down.
The Olympics brand is estimated to be worth $45 billion and organisers are determined to protect it at any cost.
Hang the Olympic spirit.