McDonald's chip monopoly at London Games relaxes one hairsbreadth

The McDonald's sponsorship deal at the Security Games in London meant that Olympic workers are not allowed to buy chips (AKA fries) unless they come with fish. A chorus of complaints from site workers has led to a relaxation of the sponsorship terms so that workers (but not visitors) can buy their chips from the vendor of their choice, even if they're not served with fish.

From The Guardian's Robert Booth:

It all results from one of the stranger twists of Olympic planning. McDonald's sponsorship deal included the exclusive right to sell chips in and around Olympic venues. Other caterers had negotiated special rights to serve chips with fish – but not chips on their own, or with anything else.

Cue frustrated scenes at the lunch counter in the ceremonies catering area where staff were toiling over the staging for Danny Boyle's 27 July opening extravaganza. "Please understand this is not the decision of the staff who are serving up your meals who, given the choice, would gladly give it to you, however they are not allowed to," read a notice pinned up by staff. "Please do not give the staff grief, this will only lead to us removing fish and chips completely."

"It's sorted," said a spokesman for Locog. "We have spoken to McDonald's about it."

But the embargo will hold in other areas. That means no chips with anything other than fish anywhere else in the park unless spectators dine at McDonald's.

I know a couple of people on the lighting and automation crew at the Security Games and they report that there's a mass lunchtime exodus from the site by its workers every day as they troop off to find anything to eat that isn't McDonald's.

Chip-hungry Olympic workers celebrate freedom from McDonald's monopoly

(Image: Big Mac meal with Chocolate Shake, Fillet-O-Fish, Chicken McNuggets - McDonalds, Hume Hwy AUD16.80, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from avlxyz's photostream)


  1. FFS! Is it just this Olympics that has this stink of corporate greed about it or has it been all the recent ones and I just haven’t notice it due to not living in the host nation?

      1. Interesting. It never really occurred until now. They should just let Greece hold it every year from now on. Euro crisis – solved. You’re welcome.

        1.  I was talking to a guy on Crete a couple of weeks ago. He saided the Athens Olympics pushed Greece over the edge, and that it’s never recovered. He hoped the London Olympics wouldn’t cause the same damage…

          1. Interesting. I could see that happening with the boobs we’ve got running the place at the moment.

          2. Doesn’t the host country rake in the money through the selling of the TV rights? Every country wants to air the games on their TV network right? Or is this aspect different to how it used to be?

          3. Doesn’t the host country rake in the money through the selling of the TV rights?

            TV networks pay billions for the right to carry the games, which costs they then pass on to their advertisers. State-run TV would just be flushing billions down the toilet if they did that.

          4. No, the INTERNATIONAL Olympics Committee has the TV rights, not the British OC or the UK Government.

        2. It is shocking Greece hasn’t tried pulling some sort of copyright stunt on the whole sh-bang.

          1. Copyright wouldn’t work; but the right Euro-lobbying might get you something else, a ‘protected geographical designation’ or some other de-novo ‘property’ right in perpetuity…

        3.  Corporations do well, host countries do not.

          Unless you’re suggesting that Greece actually get in on the corporate action, in which case, their athletes would have an advantage and impinge on the Sanctity And Purity Of The Games ™

        1. I shall wave my umbrella around like sword welding maniac.

          Jokingly aside, look up Coca-Cola and the Olympics.  And any company that’s been around long enough.

          My take is as soon as the Nazi’s started using it as part of their propaganda machine in the 30s, it’s been downhill.  People noted they could bring their message to the games.  During the Cold War, it was the Americans and Russians trying to bring their message of superiority.  After the end of the Iron curtain in 1989, I guess was the major boon of “corporate  dickery”.  The lessen of political propaganda, meant an increase of corporate ads.

          Yes, you may call Godwin.  But without the Nazi I really doubt the Olympics would gather that much attention.

          1.  I thought it was particularly pointless when the professional NBA amateur basketball players from the United States beat Croatia for the gold medal.

    1. Put into perspective,  it’s a recent thing when you consider the modern Olympics have been running for 116 years. Countries didn’t really look at the Olympics as a profit opportunity until the 1984 games in LA, which were actually successful in a financial sense. Since then it’s gradually increased; I started noticing the insane marketing as of Atlanta 1996 but I’m not that old, so YMMV.

    1. I was wondering about that. My g/f said it’s because they apparently plough a shitload of money into sports for kids and things like that. I agree that it makes no sense. Other such mysteries include Cadburys and Coke.

      1.  It’s totally un-mysterious.

        McD’s and other junkfood merchants earn $X billion in profit from ruining kids’ health.

        They spent $0.001X billion on sponsoring kids’ sporting activity.

        They get to claim to be guardians of health and fitness.


          1. Funny article: “Will your Che Guevara t-shirt get you sent home, and if so, for what? For supporting communism? For espousing the 1958 removal of Fulgencio Batista? For championing the right to look like a tool?”

            Is my “FUCK BATISTA” shirt ok then??

        1. What, 1.x million dollars is what you’re saying? No, it’s way, way more than that for McDonald’s alone. Facts _do_ matter.
          Look, olympic sponsorship sucks in every possible way, including McDonald’s, but why make shit up when the facts are on your side anyway? 

          1. Turns out that, in a randomly-Googled quarter of last year, McDonald’s netted about $1.5 billion. So, call X maybe $6 billion a year.

            How much they spend on sports sponsorship will be harder to dig up, but yeah, $6 million wouldn’t be all that much, worldwide.

          2. McDonald’s says $7 million for Canada alone (I presume Canadian dollars); worldwide it would be a multiple of that, surely. Also, they do cool stuff with kids’ hospitals all over the world.

            Just cause their food and olympic sponsorship suck doesn’t mean they don’t do genuinely good things. Let’s stick to the facts.

            (Also, if X is 6, Cory’s figure for sports sponsorship would be $1.6 million, which is obviously bunk.)

          3. Remember when Hezbollah gave out stacks of cash to victims of the skirmish with Israel?  Sweet dudes, amirite?

            I’m pretty sure McDonald’s employs legions of PR guys who make damned sure that no more money is donated than is strictly necessary to maintain a positive public image. Corporations cannot “do good things” because they are not moral agents. Human beings can do good things. Maybe if human beings had more money and corporations less more good things would get done.

  2. You would have to be a complete Muppet to give two shites about the Olympics. Do not watch them. Do not talk about them. Do not participate at all with information about the results from the Olympics. It is a joke. East London will be ruined for decades. 

    1. I used to love the Olympics. I haven’t given a shit since … actually, I can’t even remember where the Games were held before Beijing (no need to correct me, I could Google if I gave a shit).. that’s how much contempt and disgust I have for what they’ve become.

      And I’m sure this has all been going on for decades, we just didn’t hear about it as much. (The missiles, however… that would’ve been in the papers if there had been SAMs mounted in Barcelona or something.)

    2. But what if you actually (a) like sport, and (b) quite like the genuinely open nature of the Olympics as far as competitors goes: it’s the only place you’ll see people like Eric the Eel et al – the folk who are what the “spirit” of the Olympics is supposed to be about – and have proper upsets and so on.  
      I agree entirely that the IOC have come close to destroying this “spirit”, but the participants should not be tarred with the same brush.  (I realise that there are still some of them who are egocentric borderline sociopaths who don’t care about anything other than winning, but – as with the rest of society – they aren’t the majority.)

      1. Sadly the spirit has been drowned in a sea of crap.  Maybe letting the Olympics wither and die is necessary to save them in the long run.  It’ll hurt a generation of athletes though.

        1. It’ll hurt a generation of athletes though.

          Why? They can still compete. They can’t be seen on television by a couple billion people or get their faces on cereal boxes, but they can still compete. Countries are being brought to financial ruin while corporations are reaping huge profits and law that’s been working for a millennium is erased. The athletes are just a PR ruse, no more valid than endless pictures of the burning WTC.

          1. The Olympics is really the only time people in events like swimming and gymnastics get seen by a large audience.  Be honest, are you watching 100 yard dash competitions any other time?

            I agree the athletic angle is exploited for commercial purposes but there is some truth to it.  But yes, it doesn’t justify the PR smoke and mirrors as you point out though.

      2. I agree, but it’s like the Olympics is making me feel bad for the athletes. There’s billions of dollars being made, none goes to the athletes who have to dedicate their lives to a sport and sometimes live in poverty, then they’re sent out to bring glory to advertisers. And the ad men and IOC hide behind the athletes when scandals and corruption are revealed.

  3. Also: McDonald’s sells *fries*, which are long and thin, not traditional British chips, which are much thicker.

        1. I thought it was, like, most European McDonalds, since they never went through the Prohibition & the weird American Puritanical Blue Laws?

          1. you, like, just assumed? Think it’s got more todo with alcohol licensing. A restaurant aimed at kids, teenagers and drivers isn’t gonna be allowed to sell beer.

          2. …except in many European countries, teenagers are of drinking age? Yeah, I like, assumed, based on like, hearsay. This isn’t, like, a court of law? A quick Google search bears out that Germany’s McD’s sell beer, as do French, Swiss, Italy & Austria ones, at least. That ain’t all of Europe, but it sure is a lot of the big names.

        2. I´m not 100% sure about Germany, but since there´s always been beer at McD in Austria, it´s highly likely it´s the same way in Germany. And it assuredly has nothing to do with it “being aimed at kids, teenagers and drivers”. Beer is available pretty much everywhere around here and there is no stigma attached to enjoying one.

    1.  I always assumed that the difference was that chips are made out of potato, and fries are made out of cardboard.

    2. The article suggests that McDonald’s have started selling traditional fish and chips (wrapped in newspaper with salt and vinegar). It is years since I used McDonald’s, but presumably they are selling their filet of fish (or whatever) and fries. Or has the government sold them the rights to use the term fish and chips as well?

  4. And I always thought that wet yellow fried cardboard didn’t count as fries!

    Seriously McDonalds, GTFO, nobody buys you being all about “sports” or “health” or “food”.

    1.  Some county which has a claim on inventing fries needs to put in a claim to the EU so in future, only fries from that county can be called “fries”

  5. Because when I think of abusive, monopolistic, antidemocratic corporatist thuggery, I think McDonalds and the 2012 London Olympic Games!

    I’m lovin’ it.

  6. I’m kind of wondering where things will go when people decide they’ve had enough of corporate greed.

    Presumably the more corporations become like governments, the more they will be at risk to the sorts of things which topple governments? What would a popular revolution against a corporation look like?

    More and more I agree with Ambrose Bierce’s now-century-old observation in The Devil’s Dictionary…

    “Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.”

    1. Behaviourally, corporations are becoming more like governments. Legally, they’re becoming more like individuals. How the concerned citizen is to keep them honest is quite a puzzle.

      1. Seeing as people are more than happy to sell naming rights to every public thing they can now I don’t think most people have the moral backbone to care.  Anything to prevent them from spending a buck on taxes for the common good.

        I’ve always suspected the privatization of the public realm was partly to get around some rights, such as free speech.  They can always claim private property rights in those cases and say you don’t have the right to free speech, protest, etc.

    2. “I’m kind of wondering where things will go when people decide they’ve had enough of corporate greed.”

      Where do you live?
      They start to protest and in 99% the money wins. The 1% ist ACTA.

    1. Doesn’t even make sense from an extreme capitalist perspective. Sponsors won’t be happy if people can’t buy things because they can’t get money and people are going to hate Visa for depriving them of access to their money.

      1. This is pretty much the opposite of the extreme capitalist perspective.  The state is providing anti-competitive subsidies to large, favored corporations (corporations that have already benefited from socialist, anti-competitive subsidies and policies in their home countries).  This is the sort of socialist crony corporate feudalism that’s getting passed off as “liberalism” these days.

    2. Is VISA’s headquarters in a volcano or something? I’m imagining the meeting that decided this was followed by hours of cackling.

      1. Only if you’re planning on living inside the same venue for the whole month, otherwise you’ll just need to get enough cash for each day. I haven’t heard anything about people being locked in overnight, but that revelation may only be a matter of days away.

    3. I’m going to watch on cable, paid with my MasterCard (had to use an AMEX cash advance to bring down my balance), whilst eating Burger King everyday.

    4. “Disabling the ATMs will make it harder for visitors to find somewhere to withdraw cash, but Visa said it expected many to bring money with them”

      Pickpockets are an olympic tradition.

  7. It is too much to hope that every company engaging in this kind of olympian exclusivity will be boycotted and out of business within a year. There. I’ve said it.

    1. Afraid so, most people either don’t care enough or can’t be bothered, or are too busy worrying about feeding their family, to actually get together and actually DO anything about the corporate greed we are becoming enclosed by.If there was a boycott for long enough and on a large enough scale to put a SERIOUS dent in a corporation’s profits then keep repeating to do so, THEN and only then, might there be some changes.

  8. Chips and French Fries are  NOT the same thing! Chips are thick, chunky pieces of potato, lovingly hand-prepared, delicately deep fried and dusted with the finest sea-salt. French Fries are potatoes screamingly forced through a potato abattoir and shredded into slivers, dunked into boiling sump-oil, pulled out moments before blissful death arrives, given time to contemplate their agony before being tortured again until mere shadows of their former selves, thrown into a stainless-steel container under sun-like radiation lamps and drenched with Sodium Chloride.
      I see no competition here!

    1.  Fries are arguably not as unhealthy as McD’s chips, having more potato and less oil per total weight

    2. McDonalds makes fries by making vast vats of mashed potatoes then baking them into fry shapes.  That’s how they achieve their uniformity in shape and flavor.  

    3.  In the U.S.A. we call all those things “fries”.  Thin cut, thick cut, curly cut, coin cut.  Deep fried, pan fried, lightly seared in oil, or even baked.  For some reason we call all these things “french fries”.

  9. The English contribution to world cuisine: the chip.  So they’re eating American ones?

    1. I don’t think that the English chip contributes to world cuisine any further than Ireland which is a shame because they are far superior. McD’s fry is an all American copy of a Belgian invention, and called French because some Belgians happened to speak French.
      Americans don’t know what to do with English food. I made some Yorkshire puddings in Georgia. They put maple syrup on them!

      1. Sorry, but you’ve succumbed to several common myths. 

        First, ‘French Fries’ were invented on Martha’s Vineyard by Mrs. Phosphine  French. Her Husband Alexander loved his wife’s creation and when he was stationed in Belgium during the Great War he introduced the Belgians to the ‘French Fry’, which he named after himself. 

        The British quickly discovered this  innovation, adapted it to their cuisine, and renamed it to ‘chips’  because it had the word ‘French’ in its name. 

        As for Yorkshire Pudding, it was first formulated in Yorkshire Vermont, and indeed the original Yorkshire Puddings incorporated maple syrup. A favourite son of Yorkshire VT brought the pudding recipe to his ancestral Yorkshire, England and soon after became a very popular desert there.   

        The rest of the U.S. doesn’t take their Yorkshire Pudding with maple syrup, but Georgia, being very, very backward did not catch on to the trend of not using maple syrup. Actually, your friends in Georgia were being pretty traditional. 

      2. I’ve never tried Yorkshire pudding with syrup, but that does sound tasty. Thanks for giving me the idea.

      3. I made Yorkshire puddings for myself once (I had never had them before but was aware of their existence and discovered they are easy to make). I put sausage bits inside some of them.

        They are not that exciting by themselves, even with the sausage, so I looked around for things to put on them. Maple syrup (the real stuff from Canada) was the best thing I tried. I’m not sure what you’re “supposed” to put on them, but if maple syrup is wrong, well, English people are missing out.

      4. Nowt wrong with syrup on Yorkshire puds – my grandparents (who were from Yorkshire) would sometimes serve them with golden syrup for pudding if there were leftovers from dinner.

    2. In what universe do you think the English invented French fries?

      The first “chips” weren’t fried in the Britain until 1860 while Thomas Jefferson had a recipe written out for them in his own hand in 1801.

      1. I’m reluctant to believe old Tom found himself in a situation where he needed to jot down the details of frying a sliced-up potato to go with his ham sammie. That would be the one recipe card in his file with the most white space on it.

        (edit: I’m not disagreeing with the thrust of your argument; only that it seems silly that anyone would need to write down the finer points of frying a potato.)

  10. workers should be more greatful. by eating delicious macdonalds fries they will become fit and healthy, soon they will be high paid olympic sportsmen.

    1. You know, there are many sportsmen and women who not only don’t get paid but have to bring their own gear on their expenses.  There is a woman in shooting who had to raise money to buy the laser pistol they use a the games only 40km away from me.

  11. Ah the modern Olympics!  Where average citizens medal if they successfully navigate the corporate challenges (“America’s Kelly Johnson takes the lead after that beautiful purchase of a McDonald’s fish and chips while using her Visa debit card.  That move’s degree of difficulty isn’t very high but was executed with such precision she will be hard to beat.  We expect to see her on the medal stand.”).

  12. I really hope that the between event festivities include parachuting filet o’ fish sandwiches from the rafters of the various venues.  I saw this happen at a basketball game in New Orleans.  I’m pretty sure it was the most memorable marketing gimmick I ever saw.  The best part was when they ran out of parachutes and just started dropping them on the crowd!!!

    Edit: The above sure reads like spam, but it’s 100% true.

  13. Sodexo Canada fed the athletes at the Vancouver Games. The chef running the show is a friend and after spending months putting together a menu vetted by nutritionists he found that McDonald’s had veto power over his menu plans. Not only were they not allow to serve hash browns at breakfast, Sodexo wasn’t allowed to promote the fact that they were there at all. In fact, they caught hell when Celebrity Chef Michael Smith, who works with them on some projects, gave them some prominent mention in an interview. Absolutely insane.

    1. Chef Michael Smith did a presentation at a culinary school earlier this year, I didn’t know who he was and just went to get a book signed, lol. He went off on a rant about how incredibly difficult it was to serve healthy food at the Olympics. Cool guy, very passionate about healthy eating.

  14. I do remember seeing an interview with Usain Bolt during which he talked about eating a lot of McDonald’s at the Beijing Olympics because he didn’t trust the local food.  So, with that sample of n = 1, McDonald’s -> Athletic greatness.

  15. I’m sick and tired of these “people” pushing us around. Corporations are, if they are “people”, supposed to be obsequious shills and hucksters trying to separate us from our money for their , sometimes, worthless products, whom you could facepalm out of your way if they got annoying. Now they’re pushy skinhead bullies, and greasy corrupt officials, ordering us around and trying to run the show. Uppity fuckers. We should put them in their place.

  16. Other caterers had negotiated special rights to serve chips with fish – but not chips on their own, or with anything else.

    Sounds like a perfectly exploitable loophole.  Find the cheapest possible unit of non-perishable “fish” and include it with the chips.  Thumbnail-sized fish nuggets.  Fish candy.  Heck, it doesn’t even have to be consumable – give ’em minnows encased in plastic.  Problem solved?

    1. I’m pretty sure McDonalds exploits this loophole, even though they don’t have to. Most of their food is non-perishable and barely consumable.

  17. At what point are we allowed to conclude that the ‘Olympics’ are actually the Yes Men’s most successful parody to date of corporatist dystopia?

  18. Way to spend lots of money pissing people off. Must be some real soopah-geeneeooses in McDonald’s marketing department handling the Olympic sponsorship deal.

    No – realising that you have ensured that there are absolutely no chip options but McDonald’s does not make any potential customer think more highly of your brand… 

  19. Let’s hear it for free enterprise, the backbone of successful economies everywhere. 

    1. It’s an exception. I’d imagine you’d go to McD’s like everyone else. So yes, you’d be going on without food. But you’d at least have ‘food’. 

  20. The thing is: I like the Olympic sports themselves.  I think it’s fun to watch obscure sports get an occasional time in the spotlight – fencing, swimming, rowing, etc.

    And yet, I can’t help but think if the IOC were to chose a single, permanent venue in some appropriate, relatively apolitical city – Vienna or Hong Kong or Toronto – and have all future events there, the IOC could avoid the corruption related to both bid competitions and the need construct brand new facilities each time and allow it to be about spo–

    Oh, wait.  I answered my own question.

    1. I don’t think Austrians would like to have that circus in their capital; their politicians are no less susceptible to being dazzled by all the promises of publicity and all too ready to surrender themselves to the demands of big organizations.

      Case in point: for some European soccer championship a couple of years ago, the city of Vienna fenced off a significant portion of its inner city and a major avenue (“fan zone”) where you had to undergo “security” checks to enter and couldn’t bring any food or drink — because UEFA had an exclusive agreement with Carlsberg that only overpriced Carlsberg beer was to be consumed inside that area.

      Seriously, this is just nuts.

    2. My point was that the IOC would never do such a thing because it denies their ability to solicit bribes on a biannual basis.

    3. Toronto does not want to host the Olympics, or the Commonwealth Games, or the Pan-American Games – EVER!!!!!!!

  21. Classic modern story…   oops, we were selling everything to the highest bidder and accidentally sold a little of your freedom.

  22. I’m not sure whether to boycott the Olympics for allowing McDonald’s to bully people with its absurd food rules, or to boycott McDonald’s for associating with such a freedom-hating organization as the Olympics.

    (Okay, I’ll just do both of them, and while it’s no great sacrifice on either score, I do very occasionally eat and enjoy McDonald’s food).

  23. What’s the definition of a fish?  

    One, or more, of the other vendors should sell their chips with a fish sticker on the wrapper, or something like that.  Or with a veryvery small piece of fish, more like just a crumb of fish.  Then it is technically fish and chips, and mcDs can go stuff themselves.  

    1.  Somewhere in the world of science, Burger King has hired a crew of men in white coats to insert fish genetics into a pickle.

      1.  Oh they’ve been successful.  It’s called a fickle, and it’s delicious!  The only problem is the aquaculture, because they require highly saline, acidic water charged with spices and garlic.

  24. I’m just glad Boston’s probably not ever going to be in the running to host.  This all just sounds so awful.  Sorry Londoners.

  25. I don’t about the rest of you, but when I think of athletic excellence, the first thing that comes to mind is a training diet consisting of Big Macs, soda, and fries.

  26. Hitler and Goebles thought the Olympics were a marvelous tool for manipulating the masses.  It’s always been about reinforcing the concept that most of us are inferior and that we should willfully bow down to our 1% betters.  This is just an example of a little reality seeping through the wizard’s curtain.  This elevation of physical sports over intellectual health has already pretty much destroyed the US educational system.

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